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A LIFE'S SECEET. 



A LIFE'S SECEET 



BY 



MRS. HENRY WOOD , 

AUTHOR OF "east LYNNE," ETC., ETC. 



IN TWO VOLUMES. 
VOL. I. 



LONDON : 



: CHARLES W. WOOD, 13, TAVISTOCK ST., STRAND. 

1867. 

IThe Bight of Translation and Reproduction reserved.^ 



LONDON : 
BRADBURY, EVANS, AND CO., PRINTERS, WHITEFRIABS. 



v./ 



PKEFACE. 

During the last twelve months I have 
received many different applications, re- 
questing me to publish " A Life's Secret," in 
book form. It was written six years ago, 
and appeared in "The Leisure Hour," in 
1862. These applications have been made 
to me — not on account of any merit in the 
story calling particularly for republication, 
but because some of the chief incidents 
depicted in it turn upon a strike : and 
strikes, as we all know, have been latterly 
growing into notoriety. 

At first I would not listen to the recpests : 
for reasons that I gave, and also that the 



VI PREFACE. 

■""•'■> 

^ story did not appear to me to be so eligible 
for republication, as some works tbat I have 
written. But the step has been so pressed 
upon me, and from quarters bearing weight, 
that I have at length yielded. It is thought 
that the pictures of the social misery induced 
by the strike (or lock-out), as described in 
the story, and which it fell to my lot to see 
something of, may possibly be felt as a 
warning, and act for good now. The scenes, 
however, are touched upon, rather than 
elaborated : the work having been made of 
necessity short, to suit the periodical for 
which it was destined. 

•The appearance of the story in 1862 did 
not please everybody, and angry remon- 
strances came down on the managers of 
" The Leisure Hour." The tenor of its senti- 
ments was not liked : and one gentleman, 
who filled a somewhat conspicuous part in 
its pages, was particularly repudiated — Mr. 



. PREFACE. Vll 

Samuel Shuck. This gave rise to a short, 
spontaneous note from the editor — reinserted 
here at the end of Chapter I. of the Second 
Part : and, subsequently, to the following 
note from myself : — 

"In writing this story the author's object has not 
been to deal with the vexing questions between masters 
and men, between capital and labour, about which there 
must always be conflicting opinions, so mucb as to depict 
the injurious social results that these quarrels produce, 
and the misery they leave behind tbem. It was written 
in the kindest, heartiest spirit towards the men, and in 
the truest sympathy with their sufPering families. — May, 
1862." 

Every word of this last note I would 
repeat now : and also the opinions expressed 
in the work, as to strikes and the social ill 
they bring. They can but be productive of 
mischief, both to masters and men. In 1862, 
the disaffection lay, comparatively speaking, 
in a nut-shell; in 1867, it has become a 
stupendous evil ; and none, I think, can 
foresee where the evil will end. I presume 
not to touch upon the political bearings of 



Vlll PEEFACE. 

the question, leaving tliem to wiser heads 
than mine : but if the book shall cause even 
one workman to stand bravely to his daily 
labour, in the teeth of adverse counsels and 
offered hindrances, and so avert seasons of 
bitter suffering from his family, I shall be 
thankful to have sent it forth. 

It is republished by the kind permission 
of the proprietors of " The Leisure Hour." 

E. W. 

October, 1867. 



CONTENTS. 

PART THE FIRST. 

CHAP. PAGE 

I. — ^WAS THE LADY MAD ? 1 

II. — CHANGES 35 

III. — AWAY TO LONDON 46 

IV. — ^DAPFODIL'S DELIGHT 66 

v.— MISS GWINN'S VISIT 89 

VI. — TRACKED HOME 113 

VII. — MR. SHUCK AT HOME 144 

VIII. — FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS ! . . . . 164 

IX. — THE SEPARATION OF HUNTER AND HUNTER 180 



V 



X CONTENTS. 

PART THE SECOND. 

CHAP. PAGE 

I. — A MEETING OF TKE -WORKMEN . . . 193 

II. — CAXI.ED TO KETTERPORD .... 221 

III. — TWO THOUSAND POUNDS 244 

rV. — AGITATION 272 



A LIFE'S SECRET. 



PAKT THE FIRST. 



CHAPTER L 

WAS THE LADY MAD ? 

On the outskirts of Ketterford, a town of 
some note in the heart of England, stood, a 
few years ago, a white house, its green lawn, 
surrounded by shrubs and flowers, sloping 
down to the high road. It probably stands 
there still, looking as if not a day had 
passed over its head since, for houses can 
be renovated and made, so to say, new 
again, unhke men and women. A cheerful 
bright, handsome house, of moderate size, 
the residence of Mr. Thornimett. 



2 A LIFES SECRET. 

At the distance of a short stone's-throw, 
towards the open country, were sundry 
workshoj)s and sheds — a large yard interven- 
ing between them and the house. They 
belonged to Mr. Thornimett ; and the tim- 
ber and other characteristic materials lying 
about the yard would have proclaimed their 
owner's trade without the aid of the lofty 
sign-board — " Eichard Thornimett, Builder 
and Contractor." His business was extensive 
for a country town. 

Entering the house by the pillared por- 
tico, and crossing the blgick-and-white floor- 
cloth of the hall to the left, you came to 
a room whose windows looked towards the 
timber-yard. It was fitted up as a sort of 
study, or counting-house, though the real 
business counting-house was at the works. 
Matting was on its floor; desks and stools 
stood about ; maps and drawings, plain and 
coloured, were on its walls ; not finished and 
beautiful landscapes, such as issue from the 
hands of modern artists, or have descended 
to us from the great masters, but skeleton 
designs of various buildings — churches, 



WAS THE LADY MAD ? 3 

bridges, terraces — plans to be worked out in 
actuaKty, not to be admired on paper. This 
room was chiefly given over to Mr. Thorni- 
mett's pupil : and you may see him in 
it now. 

A tall, gentlemanly young fellow, active 
and upright ; his name, Austin Clay. It 
is Easter Monday in those long-past years 
— and yet not so very long past, either — 
and the works and yard are silent to-day. 
Strictly speaking, Austin Clay can no longer 
be called a pupil, for he is twenty-one, and 
his articles are out. The house is his home ; 
Mr. and Mrs. Thornimett, who have no chil- 
dren of their own, are almost as his father 
and mother. They have said nothing to 
him about leaving, and he has said nothing 
to them. The town, in its busy interference, 
gratuitously opined that " Old Thornimett 
would be taking him into partnership." Old 
Thornimett had' given no indication of what 
he might intend to do, one way or the 
other. 

Austin Clay was of good parentage, of 
gentle birth. Left an orphan at the age of 

A B 2 



4 A LIFES SECRET. 

fourteen, witli very small means, not suffi- 
cient to complete his education, Ketterford 
wondered what was to become of him, and 
whether he had not better get rid of him- 
self l)y running away to sea. Mr. Thorni- 
mett stepped in and solved the difficulty. 
The late Mrs. Clay — Austin's mother — and 
Mrs. Thornimett were distantly related, and 
perhaps a, certain sense of duty in the 
matter made itself heard ; that, at least, 
combined with the great fact that the 
Thornimett household was childless. The 
first thing they did was to take the 
boy home for the Cln:istmas hohdays ; the 
next, was to tell him he should stay there 
for good. Not to be adopted as their son, 
not to leave him a fortune hereafter, Mr. 
Thornimett took pains to explain to him, 
but to make him into a man, and teach him 

to earn his own livino;. 

. '''-■■■■ 
"Will you be apprenticed'^to me, Austin V 

subsequently asked Mr. Thornimett. 

" Can't I be articled, sir 1 " returned 
Austin, quickly. 

" Articled ? " repeated Mr. Thornimett, 

§^ 



WAS THE LADY MAD ? 5 

with a laugli. He saw what was running 
in the boy's mind. He was a plain man 
himself; had built up his own fortunes just 
as he had built the new house he lived in ; 
had risen, in fact, as many a working man 
does rise : but Austin's father was a gen- 
tleman. " Well, yes, you can be articled, 
if you like it better," he said ; " but I shall 
never call it anything but apprenticed ; 
neither will the trade. You'll have to work, 
young sir," 

" I don't care how hard I work, or what 
I do," cried Austin, earnestly. " There's no 
degradation in work." 

Thus it was settled ; " and Austin Clay 
became bound pupil to Kichard Thorni- 
mett. 

" Old Thornimett and his wife have done 
it out of charity," quoth Ketterford. 

No doubt they had. But as the time 
passed on, they grew very fond of him. He 
was an open-hearted, sweet-tempered, gene- 
rous boy, and one of them at least, Mr. 
Thornimett, detected in him the qualities 
that make a superior man. Privileges were 
« ■ 



6 A LIFES SECRET. 

accorded him from tlie first : the going 
on with certain of his school duties, for 
which masters came to him out of business 
hours — drawing, mathematics, and modern 
langTiages chiefly — and Austin went on 
himself with Latin and Greek. With the 
two latter Mrs. Thomimett waged perpetual 
war. What would be the use of them to 
him, she was always asking, and Austin, 
in his pleasant, laughing way, would rejoin 
that they might help to make him a gen- 
tleman. He was that aheady : Austin Clay, 
though he might not know it, was a true 
gentleman born. 

Had they repented their bargain ? — He 
was twenty-one now, and out of his arti- 
cles, or his time, as it was commonly called. 
No, not for an instant. Never a better 
servant had Eichard Thornimett ; never, he 
would have told you, one so good. With 
all his propensity to be a "gentleman," 
Austin Clay did not shrink from his work; 
but did it thoroughly. His master in his 
wisdom had caused him to learn his busi- 
ness ]Dractically ; but, that accomplished, he 



WAS THE LADY MAD ? 7 

kept Mm to over-looking, and to otlier light 
duties, just as he might have done by a 
son of his own. It had told well. 

Easter Monday, and a universal holiday. 
Mr. Thornimett had gone out on horseback, 
and Austin was in the pupil's room. He 
sat at a desk, his stool on the tilt, one 
hand unconsciously balancing a ruler, the 
other supporting his head, which was bent 
over a book. 

" Austin ! " 

The call, rather a gentle one, came from 
outside the door. Austin, buried in his 
book, did not hear it. 

"Austin Clay!" 

He heard that, and started up. The door 
opened in the same moment, and an old 
lady, dressed in delicate lavender print, 
came briskly in. Her cap, of a round, old- 
fashioned shape, was white as snow, and a 
bunch of keys hung from her girdle. It 
was Mrs. Thornimett. 

" So you are here ! " she exclaimed, ad- 
vancing to him with short, quick steps, a 
sort of trot. " Sarah said she was sure Mr. 



8 A LIFES SECRET. 

Austin had not gone out. And now, what do 
you mean by this 1 " she added, bending her 
spectacles, which she always wore, on his 
open book. " Confining yourself in-doors 
this lovely day over that good-for-nothing 
Hebrew stuff!" 

Austin turned his eyes upon her with a 
pleasant smile. Deep-set grey eyes they 
were, earnest and truthful, with a great 
amount of thought in them for a young 
man. His face was a pleasing, good-looking 
face, without being a handsome one, its 
complexion pale, clear, and healthy, and 
the hair rather dark. There was not 
much of beauty in the countenance, but 
there was plenty of firmness and good 
sense. 

"It is not Hebrew, Mrs. Thornimett. 
Hebrew and I are strangers to each other. 
I am only indulging myself with a bit of 
old Homer." 

" All useless, Austin. I don't care whe- 
ther it is Greek or Hebrew, or Latin or 
French. To pore over those rubbishing dry 
books whenever you get the chance, does 



WAS THE LADY MAD « 9 

you jio good. If you did not possess a con- 
stitution of iron, you would liave been laid 
upon a sick-bed long ago." 

Austin lauohed outright. Mrs. Tborni- 
mett's prejudices against what sbe called 
" learning," bad grown into a proverb. 
Never having been troubled with much 
herself, she, like the Dutch professor told 
of by George Primrose, "saw no good in 
it." She lifted her hand and closed the 
book. 

" May I not spend my time as I like upon 
a holiday?" remonstrated Austin, half vexed, 
half in good humour. 

" No," said she, authoritatively ; " not 
when the day is warm and bright as this. 
We do not often get so fair an Easter. 
Don't you see that I have put off my winter 
clothing ? " 

" I saw that at breakfast." 

" Oh, you did notice that, did you ? I 
thought you and Mr. Thornimett were both 
buried in that newspaper. Well, Austin, 
I never make the change till I think warm 
weather is really coming in : and so it ought 



10 A life's secret. 

to be, for Easter is late this year. Come, 
put that book up." ■ 

Austin obeyed, a comical look of griev- 
ance on his face. " I declare you order me 
about just as you did when I came here 
first, a miserable little muff of fourteen. 
You'll never get another like me, Mrs. Thor- 
nimett. As if I had not enough out-door 
work every day in the week I And I don't 
know where on earth to go to. It's like 
turning a fellow out of house and 
home ! " 

" You are going out for me, Austin. The 
master left a message for the Lowland farm, 
and you shall take it over, and stay the day 
with them. They will make as much of 
you as they would of a king. When Mrs. 
Milton was here the other day, she com- 
plained that you never went over now ; she 
said she supposed you were growing above 
them." 

" What nonsense I " said Austin, laugh- 
ing. " Well, I'll go there for you at 
once, without grumbling. I like the 
Miltons." 



WAS THE LADY MAD ? 11 

" You can walk, or you can take the pony- 
gig : wliicliever you like." 

" I will walk," replied Austin with alac- 
rity, putting his book inside the large 
desk. " What is the message, Mrs. Thorni- 
mett ? " 

" The message " 

Mrs. Thornimett came to a sudden pause, 
very much as if she had fallen into a dream. 
Her eyes were gazing from the window into 
the far distance, and Austin looked in the 
same direction : but there was not anything 
to be seen. 

" There's nothing there, lad. It is but my 
own thoughts. Something is troubling me, 
Austin. Don't you think the master has 
seemed very poorly of late 1 " 

" N — o," replied Austin, slowly, and with 
some hesitation, for he was half doubting 
whether something of the sort had not 
struck him. Certainly the master — as Mr. 
Thornimett was styled indiscriminately on 
the premises both by servants and work- 
people, so that Mrs. Thornimett often fell 
into the same habit — was not the brisk man 



12 A LIFE S SECRET. 

he used to be. " I have not noticed it par- 
ticularly." 

" That is Hke the young ; they never see 
anything," she murmured, as if speaking to 
herself. " Well, Austin, I have ; and I can 
tell you that T do not like the master's looks, 
or the signs I detect in him. Especially did 
I not like them when he rode forth this 
morning." 

" All that I have observed is, that of late 
he seems to be disinclined for business. He 
seems heavy, sleepy, as though it were a 
trouble to him to rouse himself; and he 
complains sometimes of headache. But, of 
course " 

" Of course, what ? " asked Mrs. Thorni- 
mett. " Why do you hesitate ? " 

" I was going to say that Mr. Thoruimett 
is not as young as he was," continued Austin, 
with some deprecation. 

"He is sixty-six, and I am sixty-three. 
But, you must be going. Talking of it, will 
not mend it. And the best part of the day 
is passing." 

" You have not given me the message," he 



WAS THE LADY MAD ? 1 3 

said, taldng up liis liat which lay beside 
him. 

" The message is this," said Mrs. Thorni- 
mett, lowering her voice to a confidential 
tone, as she glanced round to see that the 
door was shut. " Tell Mr. Milton that Mr. 
Thornimett cannot answer for that timber 
merchant about whom he asked. The master 
fears he might prove a shppery customer ; he 
is a man whom he himself would trust as 
far as he could see, but no farther. Just 
say it into Mr. Milton's private ear, you 
know." 

"Certainly. I understand," replied the 
young man, turning to depart. 

" You see now why it might not be con- 
venient to despatch any one but yourself. 
And, Austin," added the old lady, following 
him across the hall, "take care not to make 
yourself ill with their Easter cheesecakes. 
The Lowland farm is famous for them." 

" I will try not," returned Austin. 

He looked back at her, nodding and laugh- 
ing as he traversed the lawn, and from 
thence struck into the open road. His way 



14 A LIFES SECRET. 

led liim past the workshops, closed then, 
even to the gates, for Easter Monday in that 
part of the coiintiy is a universal holiday. 
A few minutes, and he turned into the fields ; 
a welcome change from the dusty road. 
The field way might be a little longer, but 
it was altogether pleasanter. Easter was late 
that year, as Mrs. Thornimett observed, and 
the season was early. The sky was blue and 
clear, the day warm and lovely ; the hedges 
were budding into leaf, the grass was grow- 
ing, the clover, the buttercups, the daisies 
were springing ; and an early butterfly 
fluttered past Austin. 

" You have taken wing betimes," he said, 
addressing the unconscious insect. " I think 
summer must be at hand." 

Halting for a moment to watch the flight, 
he strode on the quicker afterwards. Supple, 
active, slender, his steps — the elastic, joyous, 
tread of youth — scarcely seemed to touch 
the earth. He always walked fast when 
busy with thought, and his mind was buried 
in the hint Mrs. Thornimett had spoken, 
touching her fears for her husband's health. 



WAS THE LADY MAD ? 15 

"If he is breaking, it's through his close 
attention to business," decided Austin, as he 
struck into the common and was nearing the 
end of his journey. " I wish he would take a 
joUy good holiday this summer. It would 
set him up ; and I know I could manage 
things without him." 

A large common ; a broad piece of waste 
land, owned by the lord of the manor, but 
appropriated by anybody and everybody ; 
where gipsies encamped and donkeys grazed, 
and geese and children were turned out to 
roam. A wide path ran across it, worn by 
the passage of farmer's carts and other 
vehicles. To the left it was bordered in the 
distance by a row of cottages ; to the right, 
its extent was limited, and terminated in 
some dangerous gravel pits — dangerous, be- 
cause they were not protected. 

Austin Clay had reached the middle of the 
path and of the common, when he overtook 
a lady whom he slightly knew. A lady of 
very strange manners, popularly supposed to 
be mad, and of whom he once stood in con- 
siderable awe, not to say terror, at which he 



16 A life's secret. . 

laughed now. She was a Miss Gwinn, a tall 
honj woman of remarkable strength, the 
sister of Gwinn, a lawyer of Ketterford. 
Gwinn the lawyer did not bear the best of 
characters, and Ketterford reviled him when 
they could do it secretly. " A low, crafty, 
dishonest practitioner, whose hands couldn't 
have come clean had he spent his days and 
nights in washing them," was amidst the 
complimentary terms applied to him. Miss 
Gwinn, however, seemed honest enough, and 
but for her rancorous manners Ketterford 
might have grown to feel a sort of respect 
for her as a woman of sorrow. She had 
come suddenly to the place many years 
before and taken up her abode with her 
brother. She looked and moved and spoke 
as one half crazed with grief : what its cause 
was, nobody knew ; but it was accepted by 
all, and mysteriously alluded to by herself 
on occasion. 

"You have taken a long walk this 
morning, Miss Gwinn," said Austin, cour- 
teously raising his hat as he came up 
with her. 



WAS THE LADY MAD ? 17 

She tlirew back her gray cloak with a 
quick, sharp movement, and turned upon 
him. "Oh, is it you, Austin Clay? You 
startled me. My thoughts were far away : 
deep upon another. He could wear a fair 
outside, and accost me in a pleasant voice, 
like you." 

" That is rather a doubtful compliment, 
Miss Gwinn," he returned, in his good- 
humoured way. " I hope I am no darker 
inside than out. At any rate, I don't try to 
appear different from what I am." 

" Did I accuse you of it ? Boy ! you had 
better go and throw yourself into one of 
those gravel pits and die, than grow up 
to be deceitful," she vehemently cried. 
" Deceit has been the curse of my days. It 
has made me what I am ; one whom the 
boys hoot after, and call " 

" No, no, not so bad as that," interrupted 
Austin, soothingly. "You have been cross 
with them sometimes, and they are insolent, 
mischievous Uttle ragamuffins. I am sure 
every thoughtful person respects you, feeling 
for your sorrow." 



IS A life's secret. 

"Sorrow!" she Wcailed. "Ay. Sorrow, 
beyond what falls to the ordinary lot of 
man. The blow fell upon me, though I was 
not an actor in it. When those connected 
with us do wrong, we suffer ; we, more than 
they. I may be revenged yet," she added, 
her expression changing to anger. " If I 
can only come across Jmn." 

"Across whom V naturally asked Austin. 

"Who are you, that you should seek to 
pry into my secrets V she passionately re- 
sumed. "I am five-and-fifty to-day — old 
enough to be your mother, and you ]3re- 
sume to put the question to me ! Boys are 
comino; to somethino;." 

" I beg your pardon ; I but spoke heed- 
lessly, Miss Gwinn, in answer to your 
remark. Indeed I have no wish to pry into 
anybody's business. And as to ' secrets,' I 
have eschewed them, since, a little chap in 
petticoats, I crept to my mother's room door 
to listen to one, and got soundly whipped 
for my pains." 

" It is a secret that you will never know, 
or anybody else ; so put its thoughts from 



WAS THE LADY MAD ? 19 

you. Austin Clay," she added, laying her 
hand upon his arm, and bending forward 
to speak in a whisper, "it is fifteen years, 
this very day, since its horrors came out 
to me ! And I have had to carry it about 
since, as I best could, in silence and in 
pain." 

She turned round abruptly as she spoke, 
and continued her way along the broad path ; 
while Austin Clay struck short off towards 
the gravel pits, which was his nearest road 
to the Lowland farm. Silent and abandoned 
were the pits that day ; everybody connected 
with them was enjoying holiday with the 
rest of the world. " What a strange woman 
she is !" he thought. 

It has been said that the gravel pits were 
not far from the path. Austin was close 
upon them, when the sound of a horse's 
footsteps caused him to turn. A gentleman 
was riding fast down the common path, from 
the opposite side to the one he and Miss 
Gwinn had come, and Austin shaded his 
eyes with his hand to see if it was any one 
he knew. No ; it was a stranger. A slender 

c2 



20 A life's secret. 

man, of some seven-and-thirty years, tall, 
so far as could be judged, with thin, pro- 
minent aquiline features, and dark eyes. 
A fine face ; one of those that impress the 
beholder at first sight, as it did Austin, 
and, once seen, remain permanently on the 
memory. 

" I wonder who he is ? " cried Austin 
Clay to himself. " He rides well" 

Possibly Miss Gwinn might be wondering 
the same. At any rate, she had fixed her 
eyes on the stranger, and they seemed to be 
starting from her head with the gaze. It 
would appear that she recognised him, and 
with no pleasurable emotion. She grew 
strangely excited. Her face turned of a 
ghastly whiteness, her hands closed involun- 
tarily, and, after standing for a moment in 
perfect stillness, as if petrified, she darted 
forward in his pathway, and seized the 
bridle of his horse. 

" So ! you have turned up at last ! I 
knew — I knew you were not dead ! " she 
shrieked, in a voice of wild raving. " I 
knew you would some time be brought 



WAS THE LADY MAD 1 21 

face to face with me, to answer for your 
wickedness." 

Utterly surprised and perplexed, or seem- 
ing to be, at this summary attack, the gen- 
tleman could only stare at his assailant, and 
endeavour to get his bridle from her hand. 
But she held it with a firm grasp. 

" Let go my horse," he said. " Are you 
mad ? " 

" You were mad," she retorted, passion- 
ately. " Mad in those old days ; and you 
tmmed another to madness. Not three 
minutes ago, I said to myself that the time 
would come when I should find you. Man ! 
do you remember that it is fifteen years ago 
this very day that the— the — crisis of the 
sickness came on ? Do you know that 
never afterwards " 

"Do not betray your private affairs to 
me," interrupted the gentleman. " They are 
no concern of mine. I never saw you in 
my life. Take care ! the horse will do you 
an injury." 

" No ! you never saw me, and you never 
saw somebody else ! " she panted, in a 



22 A LIFES SECRET. 

tone that would have been mockingly sar- 
castic, but for its wild passion. " You 
did not change the current of my whole 
life I you did not turn another to mad- 
ness ! These equivocations are worthy of 
you." 

" If you are not insane, you must be 
mistaking me for some other person," he 
replied, his tone none of the mildest, though 
perfectly calm. " I repeat that, to my 
knowledge, I never set eyes upon you in 
my life. Woman ! have you no regard for 
your own safety ? The horse will kill 
you ! Don't you see that I cannot control 
him?" 

" So much the better if he kills us both," 
she shrieked, swaying up and down, to 
and fro, with the fierce motions of the 
angry horse. " You will only meet your 
deserts : and, for myself, I am tired of 
life." 

" Let go ! " cried the rider. 

" Not until you have told me where you 
live, and where you may be found. I have 
searched for you in vain. I will have my 



WAS THE LADY MAD ? 23 

* . 

revenge ; I will force you to do justice. 
You " 

In lier sad temper, her dogged obstinacy, 
she stiU held the bridle. The horse, a spi- 
rited animal, was passionate as she was, and 
far stronger. He reared bolt upright, he 
kicked, he plunged ; and, finally, he shook 
ofi" the obnoxious control, to dash furiously 
in the direction of the gravel pits. Miss 
Gwinn feU to the ground. 

To faU into the pit would be certain 
destruction to both man and horse. Austin 
Clay had watched the encounter in amaze- 
ment, though he could not hear the words 
of the quarrel. In the humane impulse 
of the moment, disregarding the danger 
to himself, he darted in front of the 
horse, arrested him on the very brink 
of the pit, and threw him back on his 
haunches. 

Snorting, panting, the white foam break- 
ing from him, the animal, as if conscious 
of the doom he had escaped, now stood 
in trembUng quiet, obedient to the control 
of his master. That master threw him- 



24 'A life's secret. .-< 

self from his back, ..and turned to 
Austin. ''^ 

" Young gentleman, you have saved my 
life." 

There was little doubt of that. Austin 
accepted the fact without ^ny.fuss, feeling 
as thankful as the speaker, and quite uncon- 
scious at the moment of the wrehch he had 
given his own shoulder. ' '.C 

" It would have been an awkWard fall, 
sir. I am glad I happened to be- here." 

" It would have been a 'killing fall," 
replied the stranger, stepping to the brink, 
and looking down. " And your being here 
must be owing to God's wonderful Provi- 
dence." 

He lifted his hat as he spoke, and re- 
mained a minute or two silent and unco- 
vered, his eyes closed. Austin, in the same 
imjDulse of reverence, lifted his. 

" Did you see the strange "manner in 
which that woman attacked me ? " ques- 
tioned the stranger. 

" Yes." 

" She must be insane." 



WAS THE LADY MAD ? 25 

" She is very strange at times," said 
Austin. " She flies into desperate pas- 
sions." 

" Passions ! It is madness, not passion. 
A woman like that ought to be shut up in 
Bedlam. Where would be the satisfaction 
to my wife and family, if, through her, I 
had been lying at this moment at the 
bottom there, dead ? I never saw her in 
my life before ; never." 

" Is she hurt ? She has fallen down, I 
perceive." 

" Hurt ! not she. She could call after 
me pretty fiercely when my horse shook her 
ofi". She possesses the rage and strength of 
a tiger. Good fellow 1 good Salem ! did a 
mad woman frighten and anger you ?" added 
the stranger, soothing his horse. " And 
now, young sir," turning to Austin, " how 
shall I reward you ? " 

Austin broke into a smile at the notion. 

" Not at all, thank you," he said. " One 
does not merit reward for such a thing as 
this. I should have deserved sending over 
^er you, had I not interposed. To do 



26 A LIFES SECRET. 

my best was a simple matter of duty — 
of obligation ; but nothing to be rewarded 
for." 

"Had he been a common man, I might 
have done it/' thought the stranger ; " but 
he is evidently a gentleman. Well, I may 
be able to repay it in some manner .as you 
and I pass through life," he said, aloud, 
mounting the now subdued horse. " Some 
neglect the opportunities, thrown in their 
way, of helping their fellow-creatures ; some 
embrace them, as you have just done. I 
beheve that whichever we may give — 
neglect or help — will be returned to us in 
kind : like unto a corn of wheat, that must 
spring up what it is sown ; or a thistle, that 
must come up a thistle." 

"As to embracing the opportunity — I 
should think there's no man living but 
would have done his best to save you, had 
he been standing here." 

" Ah, well ; let it go," returned the horse- 
man. " Will you tell me your name ? and 
something about yourself?" 

"My name is Austin Clay. I have few 



WAS THE LADY MAD "? 27 

relatives living, and tliey are distant ones, 
and I shall, I expect, have to make my own 
way in the world." 

" Are you in any profession ? or busi- 
ness ? " 

"I am with Mr. Thornimett, of Ketter- 
ford ; the builder and contractor." 

"Why, I am a builder myself !" cried the 
stranger, a pleasing accent of surprise in 
his tone. " Shall you ever be visiting 
London ?" 

" I daresay I shall, sir. I should Hke to 
do so." 

" Then, when you do, mind you call upon 
me the first thing," he rejoined, taking a 
card from a case in liis pocket and handing 
it to Austin. Come to me should you ever 
be in want of a berth : I might help you to 
one. Will you promise V 

" Yes, sir ; and thank you." 

" I fancy the thanks are due from the 
other side, Mr. Clay. Obhge me by not 
letting that Bess o' Bedlam obtain sight of 
my card. I might have her following 

e." 



28 A life's secret. 

"No fear," said Austin, alluding to tlie 
caution. 

" She must be lying there to regain the 
strength exhausted by passion," carelessly 
remarked the stranger. " Poor thing ! it is 
sad to be mad, though I She is getting up 
now, I see ; I had better be away. That 
town beyond, in the distance, is Ketterford, 
is it not 1 " 

" It is." 

" Fare you well, then. I must hasten to 
catch the twelve o'clock train. They have 
horse-boxes, I presume, at the station ?" 

" Oh, yes." 

" All right," he nodded. " I have received 
a summons to town, and cannot afford the 
time to ride Salem home. So we must both 
get conveyed by train, old fellow" — patting 
his horse, as he spoke to it. " By the way, 
though — what is the lady's name ?" he 
halted to ask. 

" Gwinn. Miss Gwinn." 

" Gwinn ? Gwinn 1 Never heard the 
name in my Hfe. Fare you well, in all gra- 
titude." 



WAS THE LADY MAD ? 29 

He rode away. Austin Clay looked at 
the card. It was a private visiting card — 
" Mr. Henry Hunter" with an address in 
the corner. 

"He must be one of the great London 
building firm, ' Hunter and Hunter/ thought 
Austin, depositing the card in his pocket. 
"First class people. And now for Miss 
Gwinn." 

For his humanity would not allow him to 
leave her unlooked-after, as the molested 
and angry man had done. She had risen to 
her feet, though slowly, as he stepped back 
across the short worn grass of the common. 
The fall had shaken her, without doing 
material damage. 

"I hope you are not hurt ?" said Austin, 
kindly. 

"A ban fight upon the horse!" she 
fiercely cried. " At my age, it does not do 
to be thrown on the ground violently. I 
thought my bones were broken ; I could 
"^^^ot rise. And he has escaped ! Boy ! 
what did he say to you of me — of my 
afi'airsr' 



30 A life's secret. 

"Not anything. I do not believe lie 
knows you in the least. He says he does 
not." 

The crimson passion had faded from 
Miss Gwinn's face, leaving it wan and 
white. " How dare you say you believe 
it?" 

" Because I do believe it," replied Austin. 
" He declared that he never saw you in his 
life ; and I think he spoke the truth. I can 
judge when a man tells truth, and when he 
tells a lie. Mr. Thornimett often says he 
wishes he could read faces — and people — 
as I can read them." 

Miss Gwinn gazed at him ; contempt and 
pity blended in her countenance. " Have 
you yet to^earn that a bad man can assume 
the semblance of goodness ?" 

" Yes, I know that ; and assume it so as 
to take in a saint," hastily spoke Austin. 
" You may be deceived in a bad man ; but 
I do not think you can in a good one. 
Where a man possesses innate truth and 
honour, it shines out in his countenance, his 
voice, his manner ; and there can be no 



WAS THE LADY MAD ? 81 

mistake. When you are puzzled over a bad 
man, you say to yourself, ' He may be telling 
tbe trutli, lie may be genuine ;' but with a 
good man you know it to be so : that is, if 
you possess the gift of reading countenances. 
Miss Gwinn, I am sure there was truth in 
that stranger." 

" Listen, Austin Clay. That man, truth- 
ful as you deem him, is the very incarnation 
of deceit. I know as much of him as one 
human being; can well know of another. It 
was he who wrought the terrible wrong upon 
my house ; it was he who broke up my 
happy home. I'll find him now. Others 
said he must be dead ; but I said, ' No, he 
lives yet.' And, you see he does live. I'll 
find him." 

Without another word she turned away, 
and went striding back in the direction of 
Ketterford — the same road which the 
i^ano;er's horse had taken. Austin stood 
and looked after her, pondering over the 
strange events of the hour. Then he pro- 
ceeded to the Lowland farm. 

A pleasant day amidst pleasant friends 



33 A life's secret. 

spent he ; rich Easter cheesecakes being the 
least of the seductions he did not withstand ; 
and Ketterford clocks were striking half-past 
ten as he approached Mrs. Thornimett's. 
The moonlight walk was delightful ; there 
was no foreboding of ill upon his spirit, 
and he turned in at the gate utterly un- 
conscious of the news that was in store 
for him. 

Conscious of the late hour — for they were 
early people — he was passing across the lawn 
with a hasty step, when the door was drawn 
silently open, as if some one stood there 
watching, and he saw Sarah, one of the two 
old maid-servants, come forth to meet him. 
Both had hved in the family for years ; had 
scolded and ordered Austin about when a 
boy, to their hearts' content, and for his own 
good. 

"Why, Sarah, is it youT' was his gay 
greeting. " Going to take a moonlight 
ramble ?" 

" Wliere have you stayed V whispered the 
woman in evident excitement. " To think 
you should be away this night of all others, 



WAS THE LADY MAD ? 33 

Mr. Austin ! Have you heard what has 
happened to the master V 

" No. What ?" exclaimed Austin, his 
fears taking alarm, 

" He fell down in a fit, over at the ^dllage 
where he went ; and they brought him 
home, a-frightening us two and the missis 
almost into fits ourselves. Oh, Master 
Austin !" she concluded, bursting into tears, 
" the doctors don't think he'll live till morn- 
ing. Poor dear old master !" 

Austin, half paralysed at the news, stood 
for a moment ao-ainst the waU inside the 
hall. " Can I go and see him V he presently 
asked. 

" Oh, you may go," was the answer ; " the 
mistress has been asking for you, and nothing 
rouses him. It's a heavy blow ; but it has 
its side of brightness. God never sends a 
^low but he sends mercy with it." 

"What is the mercy — the brightness T' 
Austin waited to ask, thinking she must 
allude to some symptom of hope. Sarah 
put her shrivelled old arm on his in solem- 
nity, as she answered it. 



34 . A life's secret. 

. " He was fit to be taken. He had lived 
for the next world while he was living in 
this. And those that do, Master Austin, 
never need shrink from sudden death." 



CHAPTEE II. 

CHANGES. 

To reflect upon the change death makes, 
even in the petty eveiy-day affairs of life, 
must always impart a certain awe to the 
thoughtful mind. On the Easter Monday, 
spoken of in the last cha|)ter, Richard Thor- 
nimett, his men, his contracts, and his busi- 
ness in progress, were all part of the life, 
the work, the bustle of the town of Ketter- 
ford. In a few weeks from that time, 
JRichard Thornimett— who had not lived to 
^ee the mornins; lio-ht after his attack — was 
mouldering in the churchyard; and the 
business, the workshops, the artisans, all 
save the dwelling-house, which Mrs. Thor- 
nimett retained for herself, had passed into 
other hands. The name, Richard Thorni- 
mett, as one of the citizens of Ketter- 

s 2 



36 A life's secret. 

ford had ceased to be : all thinors were 
changed. 

Mrs. Thornimett's friends and acquaint- 
ances had assembled to tender counsel, after 
the fashion of busy-bodies of the world. 
Some recommended her to continue the 
business ; some, to give it up ; some, to 
take in a gentleman as partner ; some, to 
pay a handsome salary to an efficient 
manager. Mrs. Thornimett listened politely 
to all, without the least intention of acting 
upon anybody's opinion but her own. Her 
mind had been made up from the first. Mr. 
Thornimett had died fairly well off, and 
everything was left to her — half of the 
money to be hers for life, and then to go to 
different relatives ; the other half was be- 
queathed to her absolutely, and was at her 
own disposal. Kumours were rife in the 
town, that, when things came to be reahzed, 
she would have about twelve thousand 
pounds in money, besides other property. 

But before makino- known her decision 
abroad, she spoke to Austin Clay. They 
were sitting together one evening when 



CHANGES. 37 

she entered upon the subject, breaking the 
silence that reigned with some abruptness. 
" Austin, I shall dispose of the business : 
everything as it stands. And the good- 
will." 

" Shall you ! " he exclaimed, taken by 
surprise, and his voice betraying a curious 
disappointment. 

Mrs. Thornimett nodded in answer. 
" I would have done my best to carry it 
on for you, Mrs. Thornimett. The foreman 
is a man of experience ; one we may 
trust/' 

" I do not doubt you, Austin ; and I do 
not doubt him. You have got your head 
Vn your shoulders the right way, and you 
would be faithful and true. So well do I 
think of your abilities, that, were you in a 
position to pay down only half the purchase 
money, I would give you the refusal of the 
business, and I am certain success would 
attend you. But you are not; so that is 
out of the question." 

"Quite out of the question," assented 
Austin. " If ever I get a business of my 



38 A life's seceet. 

own, it must be by working for it. Have 
you quite resolved upon giving it up ? " 

" So far resolved, that the negotiations 
are already half concluded," replied Mrs. 
Thornimett. " What should I, a lone 
woman, do with an extensive business 1 
When poor widows are left badly off, they 
are obliged to work ; but I possess more 
money than I shall know how to spend. 
Why should I worry out my hours and 
days trying to amass more 1 It would not 
be seemly. Rolt and Ransom wish to pur- 
chase it." 

Austin lifted his head with a quick move- 
ment. He did not like Eolt and Ransom. 

" The only difference we have in the 
matter, is this : that I wish them to take 
you on, Austin, and they think they shall 
find no room for you. Were you a common 
workman, it would be another thing, they 
say." 

"Do not allow that to be a difference 
any longer, Mrs. Thornimett," he cried, 
somewhat eagerly. " I should not care to 
be under Rolt and Ransom. If they offered 



CHANGES. 39 

me a place to-morrow, and carte hlanche 
as to pay, I do not think I could bring 
myself to take it." 

" Why ? " asked Mrs. Thornimett, in sur- 
prise. 

" Well, they are no favourites of mine. I 
know nothing against them, except that they 
are hard men — grinders ; hut somehow I 
have always felt a prejudice against that 
firm. We do have our likes and dishkes, 
you are well aware. Young Eolt is promi- 
nent in the business, too, and I am sure 
there's no love lost between him and me ; 
Ve should be at daggers drawn. No, I 
should not serve Eolt and Eansom, If they 
succeed to your business, I think I shall go 
to London and try my fortune there." 

Mrs. Thornimett pushed back her widow's 
cap, to which her head had never yet been 
able to get reconciled — something like 
Austin with regard to Eolt and Eansom. 
"London would not be a good place for 
you, Austin. It is fuU of pitfaUs for young 
men." 

"So are other places," said Austin, laugh- 



.40 A life's secret. 

ingly, " if young men choose to step into 
them. I shall make my way, Mrs. Thor- 
nimett, never fear. I am thorough master 
of my business in all its branches, higher 
and lower, as you know, and I am not afraid 
of putting my own shoulder to the wheel, 
if there's necessity for it. As to pitfalls — 
if I do stumble in the dark into any, I'll 
manage to scramble out again ; but I will 
try and take care not to step into them 
wilfully. Had you continued the business, 
of course I would have remained with you ; 
otherwise, I should like to go to London." 

"You can be better trusted, both as to 
capabilities and steadiness, than some could 
at your age," deliberated Mrs. Thornimett. 
"But they are wrong notions that you young 
men pick up with regard to London. I 
believe there's not one of you but thinks 
its streets are sprinkled with diamonds." 

"/ don't," said Austin. "And while God 
gives me hands and brains to work with, I 
.would rather earn my diamonds, than stoop 
to pick them up in idleness." 

Mrs. Thornimett paused. She settled her 



CHANGES. 41 

spectacles more firmly on her eyes, turned 
them full on Austin, and spoke sharply. 

"Were you disappointed when you heard 
the poor master'^ will read ? " 

Austin, in return, turned his eyes upon 
her, and opened them to their utmost width 
in his surprise. " Disappointed ! No. Why 
should I be?" 

" Did it never occur to you to think, or to 
expect, that he might leave you something ? " 

" Never," earnestly rej^lied Austin. " The 
tlought never so much as crossed my mind. 
Mr. Thornimett had near relatives of his 
own — and so have you. Who am I, that I 
should think to step in before them ? " 

" I wish people would mind their o"\\ti 
business ! " exclaimed the old lady, in a 
vexed tone. " I was gravely assured, Austin, 
that young Clay felt grievously ill-used at 
not being mentioned in the will." 

"Did you beheve it ? " he rejoined. 

" No, I did not." 

"It is utterly untrue, Mrs. Thornimett, 
whoever said it. I never expected Mr. 
Thornimett to leave me anything ; therefore, 



42 A life's secret. 

I could not have been disaj)pointed at the 
will. 

" The poor master knew I should not for- 
get you, Austin ; that is, if you continue to 
be deserving. Some time or other, when my 
old bones are laid beside him, you may be 
the better for a trifle from me. Only a 
trifle, mind ; we must be just before we are 
generous." 

" Indeed, you are very kind," was Austin 
Clay's reply ; " but I should not wish you to 
enrich me at the expense of others who 
have greater claims." And he fully meant 
what he said. " I have not the least fear of 
making my own way up the world's ladder. 
Do you happen to know anything of the 
London firm. Hunter and Hunter ? " 

" Only by reputation," said Mrs. Thorni- 
mett. 

" I shall apply to them, if I go to London. 
They would interest themselves for me, per- 
haps." 

" You'd be sure to do well if you could 
get in there. But why should they help 
you more than any other firm would ? " 



CHANGES. 43 

" There's nothing like trying," replied 
Austin, too conscious of the evasive cha- 
racter of his reply. He was candour itself; 
but he feared to speak of the circumstances 
under which he had met Mr. Henry Hunter, 
lest Miss Gwinn should find out it was to 
him he had gone, and so track Mr Henry 
Hunter home. Austin deemed that it was 
no business of his to help her to find Mr. 
Hunter, whether he was or was not the Mte 
nd^re of whom she had spoken. He might 
have told of the encounter at the time, but 
for the home calamity that supervened upon 
it ; that drove away other topics. Neither 
had he mentioned it at the Lowland farm. 
For all Miss Gwinn's violence, he felt pity 
for her, and could not expose the woman. 

" A first-rate firm, that of Hunter and 
Hunter," remarked Mrs. Thornimett. " Your 
credentials will be good also, Austin." 

" Yes ; I hope so." 

It was nearly all that passed upon the 
subject. Rolt and Ransom took possession 
of the business, and Austin Clay prepared to 
depart for London. Mrs. Thornimett felt 



44 A life's secret, 

sure he would get on well — always pro- 
vided that he kept out of "pit-falls." She 
charged him not to be above his business, but 
to ivorh his way upwards : as Austin meant 
to do. 

A day or two before quitting Ketterford, 
it chanced that he and Mrs. Thornimett, who 
were out together, encountered Miss Gwinn. 
There was a speaking acquaintance between 
the two ladies, and Miss Gwinn stopped to 
say a kind word or two of sympathy for the 
widow and her recent loss. She could be a 
lady on occasion, and a gentle one. As the 
conversation went on, Mrs. Thornimett inci- 
dentally mentioned that Mr. Clay was going 
to leave and try his fortune in London. 

" Oh, indeed," said Miss Gwinn, turning 
to him, as he stood quietly by Mrs. Thorni- 
mett's side. " What does he think of doing 
there ^ " 

" To get a situation, of course. He means 
first of all to try at Hunter and Hunter s." 

The words had left Mrs. Thornimett's lips 
before Austin could interpose — which he 
would have given the world to do. But 



CHANGES. 45 

there was no answering emotion on Miss 

o 

Gwinn's face. 

" Hunter and Hunter ? " she carelessly 
repeated. " Who are they 1 " 

" Hunter Brothers, they are sometimes 
called," observed Mrs. Thornimett. " It is a 
building; firm of eminence." 

" Oh," apathetically returned Miss Gwinn. 
" I wish you well," she added to Austin. 

He thanked her as they parted. The sub- 
ject, the name, evidently bore for her no 
interest whatever. Therefore Austin judged, 
that although she might have knowledge of 
Mr. Henry Hunter's person, she could not of 
his name. 



CHAPTER III. 

AWAY TO LONDON. 

A HEAVY train, drawn by two engines, 
was dasliino; towards London. Whitsuntide 
liad come, and the public took advantage of 
the holiday, and the trains were crammed. 
Austin Clay took advantage of it also ; it 
Avas a saving to his pocket, the fares having 
been lowered ; and he rather liked a cram. 
AVhat he did not like, though, was the being 
stuffed into a first-class carriage with its 
Avarm mats and its cushions. The crowd 
Avas so great that people sat indiscriminately 
in any carriage that came first. The day 
Avas intensely hot, and he would have pre- 
ferred one open on all sides. They were 
filled, however, before he came. He had left 
Ketterford, and was on his road to London 
to seek his fortune — as old stories used to say. 



AWAY TO LONDON. 47 

Seated in the same compartment as him- 
self, was a lady with a little girl. The for- 
mer appeared to be in very delicate health ; 
she remarked more than once, that she would 
not have travelled on so crowded a day, had 
she given it proper thought. The little girl 
was chiefly remarkable for making herself 
troublesome to Austin : at least, her mamma 
perpetually reproached her with doing so. 
She was a lovely child, mth delicately 
carved features, slightly aquiline, but inex- 
pressibly sweet and charming. A bright 
colour illumined her cheeks, her eyes were 
large and dark and soft, and her brown curls 
were flowing. He judged her to be perhaps 
eleven years old ; but she was one of those 
natural, unsophisticated children, who appear 
much younger than they are. The race has 
pretty nearly gone out of the world now : I 
hope it will come back again. 

" Florence, how caji you be so tiresome ? 
Pushing yourself before the gentleman 
against that dangerous door I it may fly 
open at any moment. I am sure he must 
be tired of holding you." 



48 A life's secret. 

Florence turned laer bright eyes — sensible, 
honest eyes, bright though they were — and 
her pretty hot cheeks upon the gentleman. 
"Are you tired, sir? " 
Austin smiled. " It would take rather 
more than this to tire me," he said. " Pray 
allow her to look out," he added, to the lady, 
opposite to whom he sat ; " I will take every 
care of her." 

" Have you any little girls of your own ? " 
questioned the young damsel. 

Austin laughed outright. " No." 
" Nor any sisters ? " 

"Nor any sisters. I have scarcely any 
relatives in the world. I am not so fortu- 
nate as you." 

" I have a great many relatives, but no 
brothers or sisters. I had a little sister once, 
and she died when she was three years old. 
Was it not three, mamma ? " 

"And how old are you?" inquired Austin. 

" Oh, pray do not ask," interposed the 

lady. " She is so thoroughly childish, I am 

ashamed that anybody should know her age. 

And yet she does not want sense." 



AWAY TO LONDON. 49 

" I was twelve last birthday," cried the 
young lady, in defiance of all conventional- 
ism. " My cousin Mary is only eleven, but 
she is a great deal bigger than I." 

" Yes," observed the lady, in a tone of 
positive resentment, " Mary is quite a 
woman already in ideas and manners : you 
are a child, and a very backward one," 

"Let her be a child, ma'am, while she 
may," impulsively spoke Austin; "child- 
hood does not last too long, and it never 
comes ascain. Little o-irls are women now- 
a-days : I think it is jDerfectly dehghtful to 
meet with one like this." 

Before they reached London, other pas- 
sengers had disappeared from the carriage, 
and they were alone. As they neared the 
terminus, the young lady was peremptorily 
ordered to " keep her head in," or perhaps 
she might lose it. 

"Oh dear! if I must, I must," returned 
the child. "But I wanted to look out for 
papa ; he is sure to be waiting for us." 

The train glided into its destination. And 
the bright quick eyes were roving amidst 



50 A life's secret. 

the crowd standing on the platform. They 
rested upon a gentleman. 

" There's Uncle Henry ! there's Uncle 
Henry ! But I don't see papa. Where's 
papa?" she called out, as the gentleman 
saw them and approached. 

" Papa's not come ; he has sent me in- 
stead, Miss Florence." And to Austin 
Clay's inexpressible surprise, he recognised 
Mr. Henry Hunter. 

" There is nothing the matter ? James 
is not ill ? " exclaimed the lady, bending 
forward. 

" No, no ; nothing of that. Being a leisure 
day with us, we thought we would quietly 
so over some estimates too;ether, James 
had not finished the calculations, and did 
not care to be disturbed at them. Your 
carriage is here." 

Mr. Henry Hunter was assisting her to 
alight as he spoke, having already lifted 
down Florence. A maid with a couple of 
carpet bags appeared presently, amidst 'the 
bustle, and Austin saw them approach a 
private carriage. He had not pushed him- 



AWA"i^ TO LONDOX. 51 

self forward. He did not intend to do so 
tlien, deeming it not the most fitting mo- 
ment to challenge the notice of Mr. Henry- 
Hunter ; but that gentleman's eye happened 
to fall upon him. 

Not at first for recognition. Mr. Hunter 
felt sure it was a face he had seen recently ; 
was one he ought to know ; but his memory 
was puzzled. Florence followed his gaze. 

" That gentleman came up in the same 
carriage with us, Uncle Hemy. He got in 
at a place they called Ketterford. I like 
him so much." 

Austin came forward as he saw the intent 
look ; and recollection flashed over the mind 
of Mr. Henry Hunter. He took both the 
young man's hands in his and grasped them. 

"You like him, do you. Miss Florence ? " 
cried he, in a half joking, half fervent tone. 
" I can tell you what, young lady ; but for 
this gentleman, you would no longer have 
possessed an Uncle Hemy to plague ; he 
would have been dead and forgotten." 

A word or two of explanation from 
Austin, touching what brought him to Lon- 

E 2 



52 A LIFES SECRET. 

don, and his intention to ask advice of Mr. 
Henry Hunter. That gentleman replied 
that he would give it willingly, and at once, 
for he had leisure on his hands that day, and 
he could not answer for it that he would 
have, on another. He gave Austin the 
address of his office. 

" When shall I come, sir ? " asked Austin. 

" Now, if you can. A cab will bring you. 
I shall not be there later in the day." 

So Austin, leaving his portmanteau, all 
the luggage he had at present brought with 
him, in charge at the station, proceeded in a 
cab to the address named, Mr. Henry Hunter 
having driven off in the carriage. 

The offices, yard, buildings, sheds, and 
other places pertaining to the business of 
Hunter and Hunter, were situated in what 
may be considered a desirable joart of the 
metropolis. They encroached neither upon 
the excessive bustle of the city, nor upon the 
aristocratic exclusiveness of the gay west 
end, but occupied a situation midway be- 
tween the two. Sufficiently open was the 
district in their immediate neighbourhood, 



AWAY TO LONDON. 53 

healthy, handsome, and near some fine 
squares ; but a very, very little way re- 
moved, you came upon swarming courts, 
and close dwellings, and squalor, and misery, 
and all the bad features of what we are 
pleased to call Arab life. There are many 
such districts in London, where wealth and 
ease contrast with starvation and improvi- 
dence, all hut within view of each other ; 
the one gratifying the eye, the other causing 
it pain. 

The yard and premises were of great ex- 
tent. Austin had thought Mr. Thornimett's 
pretty fair for size ; but he could laugh at 
them, now that he saw the Messrs. Hunter's. 
They were inclosed by a wall, and by light 
iron gates. Within the gates on the left- 
hand side were the offices, where the indoor 
business was transacted. A wealthy, im- 
portant, and highly considered firm was that 
of the Messrs. Hunter. Their father had 
made the business what it was, and had 
bequeathed it to them jointly at his death. 
James, whose wife and only child you have 
seen arriving by the train, after a week's 



54 A LIFES SECRET. 

visit to the country, was tlie elder brother, 
and was usually styled Mr. Hunter ; the 
younger was known as Mr. Henry Hunter, 
and he had a large family. Each occupied 
a handsome house in a contiguous square. 

Mr. Henry Hunter came up almost as 
Austin did, and they entered the offices. 
In a private room, warmly carpeted, stood 
two- gentlemen. The one, had he not been 
so stout, would have borne a great likeness 
to Mr. Hemy Hunter. It was Mr. Hunter. 
In early life the likeness between the brothers 
had been remarkable ; the same dark hair 
and eyes, the well-formed aquiline features, 
the same active, tall, light figure ; but, of late 
years, James had grown fat, and the resem- 
blance was in part lost. The other gentle- 
man was Dr. Bevary, a spare man of middle 
heio;ht, the brother of Mrs. James Hunter. 
Mr. Henry Hunter introduced Austin Clay, 
speaking of the service rendered him, and 
broadly saying as he had done to Florence, 
that but for him he should not now have 
been alive. 

"There you go, Henry," cried Dr. Bevary. 



AWAY TO LONDON. 55 

" That's one of your exaggerations, that is : 
you were always given to the marvellous, 
you know. Not alive ! " 

Mr. Henry Hunter turned to Austin. 
"Tell the truth, Mr. Clay. Should I, or 
not ? " And Austin smiled, and said he 
believed not. 

"I cannot understand it," exclaimed Dr. 
Bevary, after some explanation had been 
given by Mr. Henry Hunter. "It is in- 
credible to suppose a strange woman would 
attack you in that manner, unless she was 
mad." 

" Mad, or not mad, she did it," returned 
Mr. Henry Hunter. " I was riding Salem — 
you know I took him with me, in that 
week's excursion I made at Easter — and the 
woman set upon me like a tigress, clutching 
hold of Salem, who won't stand such jokes. 
In his fury, he got loose from her, dashing 
he neither knew nor cared whither, and 
this fine fellow saved us on the very brink 
of the yawning pit — risking the chance 
of getting killed himself. Had the horse 
not been arrested, I don't see how he 



56 A life's SECPtET. 

could have helped being knocked over with 
us." 

Mr. Hunter turned a warm grateful look 
on Austin. " How was it you never spoke 
of this, Henry ?" he inquired of his brother. 

"There's another curious phase of the 
affair," laughed Mr. Henry Hunter, " I have 
had a dislike to speak of it, even to think of 
it. I cannot tell you why ; certainly not 
on account of the escaped danger. And it 
was over ; so, what signified talking of it ?" 

" Why did she attack you ? " pursued Dr. 
Bevary. 

" She evidently, if there was reason in her 
at all, mistook me for somebody else. All 
sorts of diabolical things she was beginning 
to accuse me of; that of having evaded her 
for some great number of years, amongst the 
rest. I sto]3ped her; telling her I had no 
mind to be the depository of other people's 
secrets." 

" She solemnly protested to me, after you 
rode away, sir, that you icere the man who 
had done her family some wrong," interposed 
Austin. " I told her I felt certain she was 



AWAY TO LONDON. 57 

mistaken : and so drew down her anger 
upon me." 

" Of what nature was the wrong 1 " asked 
Dr. Bevary. 

" I cannot tell," said Austin. " I seemed 
to gather from her words that the wrong 
was upon her family, or upon some portion 
of her family, rather than upon her. I re- 
member she made use of the expression, that 
it had broken up her happy home." 

" And you did not know her ? " exclaimed 
the doctor, looking at Mr. Henry Hunter. 

" Know her "? " he returned, " I never set 
eyes on her in all my life until that day. I 
never was in the place before, or in its 
neighbourhood. If I ever did work her 
wrong, or ill, I must have done it in my 
sleep ; and with miles of distance interven- 
ino;. Who is she ? What is her name ? 
You told it me, Mr. Clay, but I forget what 
it was." 

" Her name is Gwinn," replied Austin, 
" The brother is a lawyer and has scraped 
together a business. One morning, many 
years ago, a lady arrived at his house, with- 



58 A life's secret. 

out Avarning, and took up her abode with 
him. She turned out to be his sister, and 
the peo]3le at Ketterford think she is mad. 
It is said they come from Wales. The little 
boys call after her, ' the mad Welch woman.' 
Sometimes Miss Gwinn." 

" What did you say the name was ? " in- 
terrupted Dr. Bevary, with startling em- 
phasis. " Gwinn ? — and from Wales ? " 

" Yes." 

Dr. Bevary paused, as if in deep thought. 
" What is her Christian name ? " he presently 
inquired. 

" It is a somewhat uncommon one," re- 
plied Austin. " Agatha." 

The doctor nodded his head, as if expect- 
ing the answer. "A tall, spare, angular 
woman, of great strength," he remarked. 

" Why, what do you know of her ? " ex- 
claimed Mr. Henry Hunter to the doctor, in 
a surprised tone. 

" Not a great deal. We medical men 
come across all sorts of persons occasionally," 
was the physician's reply. And it was given 
in a concise, laconic manner, as if he did not 



AWAY TO LONDON. 5U 

care to be questioned further. Mr. Henry 
Hunter pursued the subject. 

" If you Imow lier, Be vary, perhaps you 
can tell Avhether she is mad or sane." 

" She is sane, I believe : I have no reason 
to think her otherwise. But she is one who 
can allow angry passion to master her at 
moments : I have seen it do so. Do you 
say her brother is a lawyer ? " he continued, 
to Austin Clay, 

" Yes, he is. And not one of the first 
water, as to reputation ; a grasping, petti- 
fogging practitioner, who will take up any 
dirty case that may be brought to him. 
And in that, I fancy, he is a contrast to his 
sister ; for, with all her strange ways, I 
should not judge her to be dishonourable. 
It is said he speculates, and that he is not 
over particular whose money he gets to do 
it with." 

" I wonder that she never told me about 
this brother," dreamily exclaimed the doctor, 
in an inward tone, as if forgetting that he 
spoke aloud. 

" Where did you meet with her ? When 



60 A life's secret. 

did you know her 1 " interposed Mr. Henry- 
Hunter. 

"Are you sure that you know nothing 
about her?" was the doctor's rejoinder, turn- 
ing a searching glance upon Mr. Henry 
Hunter. 

" Come, Be vary, what have you got in 
your head ? I do not know her. 1 never 
met with her until she saw and accosted me. 
Are you acquainted with her history ? " 

" With a dark page in it." 

" What is the page ? " 

Dr. Bevary shook his head. " In the 
course of a physician's practice he becomes 
cognisant of many odds and ends of romance, 
dark or fair.; things that he must hold 
sacred, and may not give utterance to." 

Mr. Henry Hunter looked vexed. " Per- 
haps you can understand the reason of her 
attacking me ? " 

" I could understand it, but for your asser- 
tion of being a stranger to her. If it is so, 
I can only believe that she mistook you for 
another." 

"If\t is so," repeated Mr. Henry Hunter. 



\ 



AWAY TO LONDON. 61 

" I am not in tlie habit of asserting an 
untruth, Bevary." 

"Nor, on the other hand, is Miss Gwinn 
one to be deceived. She is keen as a razor." 

" Bevary, what are you driving at ? " 

" At nothing. Don't be alarmed, Henry. 
I have no cause to suppose you know the 
woman, or she you. I only thought — and 
think — she is one whom it is almost impos- 
sible to deceive. It must, however, have 
been a mistake." 

" It was a mistake — so far as her suspicion 
that she knew me went," decisively returned 
Mr. Henry Hunter. 

" Ay," acquiesced Dr. Bevary. " But here 
am I, gossiping my morning away, when a 
host of patients are waiting for me. We 
poor doctors never get a holiday, as you 
more favoured mortals do." 

He laughed as he went out, nodding a 
friendly farewell to Austin. Mr. Henry 
Hunter stepped out after him. Then Mr. 
Hunter, who had not taken part in the dis- 
cussion, but had , stood lookinsr from the 
window while they carried it on, wheeled 



62 A life's secret. 

round to Austin and spoke in a low, earnest 
tone. 

"What is this tale — this mystery — that 
my brother and the doctor seem to be pick- 
ing up." 

" Sir, I know no more than you have 
heard me say. I witnessed her attack on 
Mr. Henry Hunter." 

" I should like to know further about it : 
about her. Will you— Hush ! here comes 
my brother back again. Hush ! " 

His voice died away in the faintest 
whisper, for Mr. Henry Hunter was already 
within the room. Was Mr. Hunter sus- 
pecting that his brother had more cognizance 
of the affair than he seemed willing to 
avow ? The thought, that it must be so, 
crossed Austin Clay ; or why that warning 
" hush " twice repeated ? 

It happened that business was remarkably 
brisk that season at Hunter and Hunter's. 
They could scarcely get hands enough, or the 
work done. And when Austin explained 
the cause which had brought him to town, 
and frankly proffered the question of whe- 



AWAY TO LONDON. 63 

tlier they could recommend liim to employ- 
ment, they were glad to offer it themselves. 
He produced his credentials of capacity and 
character, and waited. Mr. Henry Hunter 
turned to him with a smile. 

" I suppose you are not above your work, 
^Ir. Clay?" 

" I am not above anything in the world 
that is right, sir. I have come to seek 
work.^' 

He was engaged forthwith. His duties at 
present were to lie partly in the counting- 
house, partly in overlooking the men ; and 
the salary offered was twenty-five pounds 
per quarter. 

" I can rise above that in time, I suppose/' 
remarked Austin, " if I give satisfaction ? " 

Mr. Hunter smiled. " Ay, you can rise 
above that, if you choose. But when you 
get on, you'll be doing, I expect, as some of 
the rest do." 

" What is that, sir ? " 

" Leaving us, to set up for yourself. 
Numbers have done so as soon as they have 
become valuable. I do not speak of the 



64 A life's secret. 

men, you understand, but of those who have 
been with us in a higher capacity. A few 
of the men, though, have done the same ; 
some have risen into influence." 

" How can they do that without capital ?" 
inquired Austin. " It must take money, and 
a good deal of it, to set up for themselves." 

" Not so much as you may think. They 
begin in a small way — take piece-work, and 
work early and late, often fourteen and fif- 
teen hours a day, husbanding their earnings, 
and getting a capital together by slow but 
sure degrees. Many of our most important 
firms have so risen, and owe their present 
positions to sheer hard work, patience, and 
energy.'' 

" It was the way in which Mr. Thornimett 
first rose," observed Austin. " He was once 
a journeyman at fourteen shillings a week. 
He got together money by working over 
hours." 

" Ay, there's nothing like it for the in- 
dustrious man," said Mr. Hunter. 

Preliminaries were settled, advice given 
to him where he might find lodgings, and 



AWAY TO LONDON. 65 

Austin departed, having accepted an invita- 
tion to dine at six at Mr. Henry Hunter's. 

And all through having performed an un- 
premeditated but almost necessary act of 
bravery. 



\ 






CHAPTER TV. 
daffodil's delight. 

Turning to the right after quitting the 
business premises of the Messrs. Hunter, you 
came to an open, handsome part, where the 
square in which those gentlemen dwelt was 
situated, with other desirable squares, cres- 
cents, and houses. But, if you turned to 
the left instead of to the right, you very 
speedily found yourself in the midst of a 
dense locality, not so agreeable to the eye or 
to the senses. 

And yet, some parts of this were not much 
to be complained of, unless you instituted a 
comparison between them and those opem* 
places ; but in this world all things are esti- 
mated by comparison. Take Daffodil's De- 
light, for example. " Daffodil's Delight ! 
what's that ? " cries the puzzled reader, un- 



daffodil's delight. 67 

certain whetlier it may be a fine picture or 
something to eat. Daffodirs Delight was 
nothing more than a tolerably long street, or 
lane, or double row of houses — wide enough 
for a street, dirty enough for a lane, the 
buildings irregular, not always contiguous, 
small gardens before some, and a few trees 
scattered here and there. When the locality 
was mostly fields, and the buildings on them 
were scanty, a person of the name of Dafibdil 
ran up a few tenements. He found that 
they let well, and he ran up more, and more, 
and more, until there was a long, long fine 
of them, and he growing rich. He called 
the place Dafibdil's Delight — which we may 
suppose expressed his own complacent satis- 
faction at his success — and Dafibdil's Delight 
it had continued, down to the present day. 

■ The houses were of various sizes, and of 

■ fancy appearance ; some large, some small ; 
■teome rising up like a narrow tower, some 
Wbut a story high ; some were all windows, 

some seemed to have none ; some you could 
only gain by ascending steps ; to others you 
pitched down as into a cellar ; some lay 



68 A life's secret. 

back, with gardens before their doors, while 
others projected pretty nearly on to the 
street gutter. Nothing in the way of houses 
could be more irregular ; and, what Mr. 
DaiFodil's motive could have been in erect- 
ing such, cannot be conjectured — unless he 
formed an idea that he would make a venture 
to suit various tastes and diverse pockets. 

Nearly at the beginning of this locahty, 
in its best part, before the road became 
narrow, there stood a detached white house : 
one of only six rooms, but superior in 
appearance, and well kept ; indeed, it looked 
more hke a gentleman's cottage residence, 
than a workins; man's. Verandah bhnds 
were outside the windows, and green wire 
fancy stands held geraniums and other 
plants on the stone copings, against their 
lower panes, obviating the necessity for 
inside blinds. In this house lived Peter 
Quale. He had begun life carrying hods of 
mortar for masons, and covering up bricks 
with straw — a half-starved urchin, his feet 
as naked as his head, and his body pretty 
nearly the same. But he was steady, indus- 



daffodil's delight. 69 

trioiis, and persevering — just one of tliose 
men that ivork on for decent position, and 
acquire it. From two shillings per week to 
four, from four to six, from six to twelve — 
such had been Peter Quale's beginnings. At 
twelve shillings he remained for some time 
stationary, and then his advance was rapid. 
Now he was one of the superior artizans of 
the Messrs. Hunters' yard ; was, in fact, in 
a post of trust, and his wages had grown in 
proportion. Daffodil's Delight said that 
Quale's earnings could not be less than £150 
per annum. A steady, sensible, honest, but 
somewhat obstinate man, well-read, and in- 
telligent ; for Peter, while he advanced his 
circumstances, had not neglected his mind. 
He had cultivated that far more than he 
had his speech or his manner ; a homely 
tone and grammar, better known to Daffo- 
dil's Delight than to polite ears, Peter 
favoured still. 

In the afternoon of Whit Monday, the 
day spoken of already, Peter sat in the par- 
lour of his house, a pipe in his mouth, and a 
book in his hand. He looked about midway 



no A life's secret. 

between forty and fifty, had a round bald 
bead, surmounted just now by a paper cap, 
a fair complexion, grey whiskers, and a well- 
marked forehead, especially where lie the 
perceptive faculties. His eyes were deeply 
sunk in his head, and he was by nature a 
silent man. In the kitchen behind, " wash- 
ing up " after dinner, was his helpmate, Mrs. 
Quale. Although so well to do, and having 
generally a lodger, she kept no servant — 
" wouldn't be bothered with 'em," she said — 
but did her own work ; a person coming in 
once a week to clean. 

A rattling commotion in the street caused 
Peter Quale to look up from his book. A 
large pleasure-van was rumbling down it, 
drawing up at the next door to his, 

" Nancy ! " called out he to his wife. 

" Well ? " came forth the answer, in a 
brisk, bustling voice, from the depths of the 
kitchen. 

" The Shucks, and that lot, be actually 
going off now ! " 

The news appeared to excite the curiosity 
of Mrs. Quale, and she came hastily in ; a 



daffodil's delight. 71 

dark-eyed, rosy-cheeked little woman, with 
black curls. She wore a neat white cap, a 
fresh-looking plum-coloured striped gown of 
some thin woollen material, and a black 
apron ; a coarse apron being pinned round 
her. Mrs. Quale was an inveterate busy- 
body, kncAV every incident that took place 
in Daffodil's Delight, and possessed a free 
and easy tongue ; but she was a kindly 
woman withal, and very popular. She put 
her head outside the window above the 
geraniums, to reconnoitre. 

" Oh, they be going, sure enough ! Well, 
they are fools ! That's just like Slippery 
Sam ! By to-morrow they won't have a 
threepenny piece to bless themselves with. 
But, if they must have went, they might 
have started earlier in the day. There's the 
Whites ! And — why ! — there's the Dunns ! 
The van won't hold 'em all. As for the 
Dunns, they'U have to pinch for a month 
after it. She has got on a dandy new 
bonnet with pink ribbons. Aren't some 
folks idiots, Peter ? " 

Peter rejoined, with a sort of a grunt, that 



72 A life's secret. 

it wasn't no business of his, and applied him- 
self agaia to his pipe and book. Mrs. Quale 
made everybody's business hers, especially 
their failings and short-comings ; and she 
unpinned the coarse apron, flung it aside, 
and flew ofi" to the next house. 

It was inhabited by two families, the 
Shucks and the Baxendales. Samuel Shuck, 
usually called Slippery Sam, was an idle, 
oily-tongued chap, always slipping from 
work — hence the nickname — and spending 
at the " Bricklayers' Arms " what ought to 
have been spent upon his wife and children. 
John Baxendale was a quiet, reserved man, 
living respectably with his wife and daugh- 
ter, but not saving. It was singular how 
improvident most of them were. Dafibdil's 
Delight was chiefly inhabited by the work- 
men of the Messrs. Hunter ; they seemed to 
love to congregate there as in a nest. Some 
of the houses were crowded with them, a 
family on a floor — even in a room ; others 
rented a house to themselves, and lived in 
comfort. 

Assembled inside Sam Shuck's front room, 



daffodil's delight. 73 

wliicli was a kitclien and not a parlour, and 
to wliich the house door opened, were as 
many people as it could well hold, all in 
their holiday attire. Abel White, his wife 
and family ; Jim Dunn, and his ; Patrick 
Eyan and the childer, (Pat's wife was dead) ; 
and John Baxendale and his daughter, besides 
others ; the whole host of little Shucks, and 
half-a-dozen outside stragglers. Mrs. Quale 
might well wonder how all the lot could be 
stuffed into the pleasure van. She darted 
into their midst. 

" You never mean to say you be a going 
off, like simpletons, at this time o' day ? " 
quoth she. 

"Yes, we be," answered Sam Shuck, a 
lanky, serpent sort of man in frame, with a 
prominent black-eye, a turned-up nose, and, 
as has been said, an oily tongue. " What 
have you got to say again it, Mrs. Quale ? 
Come 1 " 

" Say ! " said that lady, undauntedly, but 
in a tone of reason rather than rebuke, " I 
say you may just as well fling your money 
in the gutter, as to go off to Epping at three 



74 A life's seceet. 

o'clock in tlie afternoon. Why didn't you 
start in the morning 1 If I hired a pleasurer 
van, I'd have my money's worth out of it." 

"It's just this here," said Sam. "It was 
ordered to be here as St. Paul's great bell 
was a striking break o' day, but the wheels 
wasn't greased ; and they have been all this 
time a greasing 'em with the best fresh 
butter at eighteen pence a pound, had up 
from Devonshire on purpose." 

" You hold your tongue, Sam," repriman- 
ded Mrs. Quale. " You have been a greasing 
your throat pretty strong, I see, with an 
extra pot or two ; you'll be in for it as usual 
before the day's out. How is it you are 
going now ? " she added, turning to the 
women. 

"It's just the worst managed thing as I 
ever had to do with," volubly spoke up Jim 
Dunn's wife, Hannah. " And it's all the 
fault o' the men : as everything as goes 
wrong always is. There was a quarrel 
yesterday over it, and nothing was settled, 
and this morning when w^e met, they began 
a jawing again. Some would go, and some 



daffodil's delight. 75' 

wouldn't ; some 'ucl have a van to the 
Forest, and some 'ud take a omnibus ride 
up to the Zoological Gardens, and see the 
beasts, and finish up at the play ; some 'ud 
sit at home, and smoke, and drink, and 
wouldn't go nowhere ; and most of the men 
got ofi" to the 'Bricklayers' Arms' and stuck 
there ; and afore the difference was settled 
in favour of the van and the Forest, twelve 
o'clock struck, and then there was dinner to 
be had, and us to put ourselves to rights 
and the van to be seen after. And there it 
is, now three o'clock's gone." 

" It'll be just a ride out, and a ride 
in," cried Mrs. Quale ; " you won't have 
much time to stop. Money must be plenti- 
ful with you, a fooling it away like that. I 
thought some of you had better sense." 

" We spoke against it, father and I," said 
quiet Mary Baxendale, in Mrs. Quale's ear ; 
"but as we had given our word to join in it 
and share in the expense, we didn't like to 
go from it again. Mother doesn't feel strong 
to-day, so she's stopping at home." 

" It does seem stupid to start at this late 



76 A life's secket. 

hour," spoke up a comely woman, mild in 
speech, Eobert Darby's wife. " Better to 
have put it off till to-morrow, and taken 
another day's holiday, as I told my master. 
But when it was decided to go, we didn't 
say nay, for I couldn't bear to disappoint 
the children." 

The chikben were already being lifted 
into the van. Sundry baskets and bundles, 
containing provisions for tea, and stone 
bottles of porter for the men, were being 
lifted in also. Then the general company 
got in ; Daffodil's Delight, those not bound 
on the expedition, assembling to witness 
the ceremony, and Peter casting an eye at 
it from his parlour. After much packing, 
and stowing, and laughing, and jesting, and 
the gentlemen declaring the ladies must sit 
upon their laps three deep, the van and its 
four horses moved off, and went lumbering 
down Daffodil's Delight. 

Mrs. Quale, after watching the last of it, 
was turning into her own gate, when she 
heard a tapping at the window of the tene- 
ment on the otliGi' side of her house. Upon 



I 



daffodil's delight. 77 

looking round, it was thrown open, and a 
portly matron, dressed almost well enough 
for a lady, put out her head. She was the 
wife of George Stevens, a very well-to-do 
workman, and most respectable man. 

" Are they going off to the Forest at this 
hour, that lot V 

" Ay," returned Mrs. Quale ; " was ever such 
nonsense known ? I'd have made a day of 
it, if I had went. They'll get home at mid- 
night, I expect, fit to stand on their heads. 
Some of the men have had a'most as much 
as is good for them now." 

" I say," continued Mrs. Stevens, " George 
says, will you and your master come in for 
an hour or two this evening, and eat a bit of 
supper with us ? We shall have a nice dish 
o' beef steaks and onions, or some relishing 
thing of that sort, and the Cheeks are 
coming." 

"Thank ye," said Mrs. Quale. "I'll ask 
Peter. But don't go and get anything 
hot." 

" I must," was the answer. " We had a 
shoulder of lamb yesterday, and we finished 



78 A life's seceet. 

it up to-day for dinner, with a salad ; so 
there's nothing cold in the house, and I'm 
forced to cook a bit of something. I say, 
don't make it late ; come at six. George — 
he's off somewhere, but he'll be in." 

Mrs. Quale nodded acquiescence, and 
went indoors. Her husband was readino; 
and smoking still. 

" I'd have put it off till ten at night, and 
went then !" ironically cried she, in allusion 
to the departed pleasure-party. "A bicker- 
ing and contending they have been over it, 
Hannah Dunn says ; couldn't come to an 
agreement what they'd do, or what they 
wouldn't do ! Did you ever see such a 
load ! Them poor horses '11 have enough of 
it, if the others don't. I say, the Stevenses 
want us to go in there to supper to-night. 
Beef steaks and onions." 

Peter's head was bent attentively over a 
map in his book, and it continued so bent 
for a minute or two. Then he raised it. 
"Who's to be there?" 

" The Cheeks," she said. " I'll make haste 
and put the kettle on, and we'll have our 



daffodil's delight. 79 

tea as soon as it boils. She says don't go in 
later than six." 

Pinning on the coarse apron, Mrs. Quale 
passed into the kitchen to her work. From 
the above slight sketch, it may be gathered 
that Daffodil's Delight was, take it for all in 
all, in tolerably comfortable circumstances. 
But for the wasteful mode of living gene- 
rally pervading it ; the improvidence both 
of husbands and wives ; the spending where 
they need not have spent, and in things 
they would have been better without — it 
would have been in very comfortable cir- 
cumstances : for, as is well known, no class 
of operatives earn better wages than those 
connected with the building; trade. 

" Is this Peter Quale's r' 

The question proceeded from a stranger, 
who had entered the house passage, and 
thence the parlour, after knocking at its 
door. Peter raised his eyes, and beheld a 
tall, young, very gentlemanhke man, in grey 
travelling clothes and a crape band on his 
black hat. Of courteous manners also, for 
he lifted his hat as he spoke, though Peter 



78 A life's secret. 

it up to-day for dinner, with a salad ; so 
there's nothing cold in the house, and I'm 
forced to cook a bit of something. I say, 
don't make it late ; come at six. George — 
he's off somewhere, but he'll be in." 

Mrs. Quale nodded acquiescence, and 
went indoors. Her husband was reading 
and smoking still. 

" I'd have put it off till ten at night, and 
went then !" ironically cried she, in allusion 
to the departed pleasure-party. "A bicker- 
ing and contending they have been over it, 
Hannah Dunn says ; couldn't come to an 
agreement what they'd do, or what they 
wouldn't do ! Did you ever see such a 
load ! Them poor horses '11 have enough of 
it, if the others don't. I say, the Stevenses 
want us to go in there to supper to-night. 
Beef steaks and onions." 

Peter's head was bent attentively over a 
map in his book, and it continued so bent 
for a minute or two. Then he raised it. 
"Who's to be there?" 

" The Cheeks," she said. " I'll make haste 
and put the kettle on, and we'll have our 



daffodil's delight. 79 

tea as soon as it boils. She says don't go in 
later than six." 

Pinning on the coarse apron, Mrs. Quale 
passed into the kitchen to her work. From 
the above slight sketch, it may be gathered 
that Daffodil's Delight was, take it for all in 
aU, in tolerably comfortable circumstances. 
But for the wasteful mode of living gene- 
rally pervading it ; the improvidence both 
of husbands and wives ; the spending where 
they need not have spent, and in things 
they would have been better without — it 
would have been in very comfortable cir- 
cumstances : for, as is well known, no class 
of operatives earn better wages than those 
connected with the building trade. 

" Is this Peter Quale's?" 

The question proceeded from a stranger, 
who had entered the house passage, and 
thence the parlour, after knocking at its 
door. Peter raised his eyes, and beheld a 
tall, young, very gentlemanhke man, in grey 
travelling clothes and a crape band on his 
black hat. Of courteous manners also, for 
he lifted his hat as he spoke, though Peter 



80 A LIFE S SECRET. 

was only a workman and had a paper cap 
on his head. 

"I am Peter Quale/' said Peter, without 
moving. 

Perhaps you may have already guessed 
that it was Austin Clay. He stepped for- 
ward -^dth a frank smile. " I am sent here," 
he said, "by the Messrs. Hunter. They 
desired me to inquire for Peter Quale." 

Peter was not wont to put himself out of 
the way for strangers : had a Duke Eoyal 
vouchsafed him a visit, I question if Peter 
would have been more than barely civil ; but 
he knew his place with resjDect to his em- 
ployers, and what was due to them — none 
better ; and he rose up at their name, and 
took off his paper cap, and laid his pipe inside 
the fender, and spoke a word of apology to 
the gentleman before him. 

" Pray do not mention it ; do not disturb 
yourself," said Austin, kindly. "My name 
is Clay. I have just entered into an engage- 
ment with the Messrs. Hunter, and am now 
in search of lodgings as conveniently near 
their yard as may be. Mr. Hemy Hunter 



DAFFODILS DELIGHT. 83 

" The rooms would suit me, so far as I 
can judge," said Austin, looking round ; 
" suit me very well indeed, if we can agree 
upon terms. My pocket is but a shallow 
one at present," he laughed. 

" I would make them easy enough for any 
gentleman sent by the masters," struck in 
Peter. " Did you say your name was Clay, 
sir?" 

" Clay," assented Austin. 

Mrs. Quale wheeled round at this, and 
took a free, full view of the gentleman from 
head to foot. " Clay 1 Clay ? " she repeated 
to herself. " And there is a likeness, if ever 
I saw one ! Sir," she hastily inquired, " do 
you come from the neighbourhood of Ketter- 

ford r 

" I come from Ketterford itself," replied he. 

"Ah, but you were not born right in the 
town. I think you must be Austin Clay, 
sir; the orphan son of Mr. Clay and his 
wife — Miss Austin that used to be. They 
lived at the Nash farm. Sir, I have had 
you upon my lap scores of times when you 
were a little one." 

o 2 



84 A life's secret. 

"Why who are you?" exclaimed 

Austin. 

" You can't have forgot old Mr. Austin, 
the great-uncle, sir ? though you were only 
seven years old when he died. I was Ann 
Best, cook to the old gentleman, and I heard 
all the inns and outs of the marriage of 
your father and mother. The match pleased 
neither family, and so they just took the 
Nash farm for themselves, to be independent 
and get along without being beholden for 
help to anybody. Many a fruit puff have I 
made for you, Master Austin ; many a cur- 
rant cake : how things come round in this 
world ! Do take our rooms, sir — it will 
seem like serving my old master over again." 

" I will take them willingly, and be glad 
to fall into such good hands. You will not 
require references now ?" 

Mrs. Quale laughed. Peter grunted re- 
sentfully. References from anybody sent by 
the Messrs. Hunter ! " I would say eight 
shillings a week, sir," said Peter, looking at 
his wife " Pay as you like ; monthly, or 
quarterly, or any way." 



I 



daffodil's delight. S^ 

" That's less tlian I expected/' said Austin, 
in his candour. " Mr. Henry Hunter thought 
they would be about ten shillings." 

Peter was candid also. "There's the 
neighbourhood to be took into considera- 
tion, sir, which is not a good one, and we 
can only let according to it. In some 
parts — and not far off, neither — you'd pay 
eighteen or twenty shillings for such rooms 
as these ; in Daffodil's Delight it is different, 
though this is the best quarter of it. The 
last gentleman paid us nine. If eight will 
suit you, sir, it will suit us." 

So the bargain was struck; and Austin 
Clay went back to the station for his lug- 
gage. Mrs. Quale, busy as a bee, ran in to 
tell her next door neighbour that she could 
not be one of the beefsteak-and-onion eaters 
that night, though Peter might, for she 
should have her hands fuU with their new 
lodger. " The nicest, handsomest young 
fellow," she wound up with ; " one it will be 
a pleasure to wait on." 

" Take care what you be at, if he's a 
stranger," cried cautious Mrs. Stevens. 



86 A LIFES SECRET. 

" There's no trusting those countiy folks : 
they run away sometimes. It looks odd, 
don't it, to come after lodgings one minute, 
and enter upon 'em the next ?" 

" Very odd," assented Mrs. Quale, with a 
laugh. "Why, it was Mr. Henry Hunter 
sent him round here ; and he has got a post 
in their house." 

" What sort of one V asked Mrs. Stevens, 
sceptical still. 

" Who knows ? Something superior to 
the best of us workpeople, you may be sure. 
He belongs to gentlefolks," concluded Mrs. 
Quale. " I knew him as a baby. It was 
in his mother's family I lived before I 
married. He's as hke his mother as two 
peas, and a handsome woman was Mrs. 
Clay. Good-bye : I'm going to get the 
sheets on to his bed now." 

Mrs. Quale, however, found that she was, 
after aU, able to assist at the supper ; for, 
when Austin came back, it was only to dress 
himself and go out, in pursuance of the 
invitation he had accepted to dine at Mr. 
Henry Hunter's. With aU his haste it had 



daffodil's delight. 87 

struck six some minutes when lie got 
there. 

Mrs. Henry Hunter, a very pretty and 
very talkative woman, welcomed him with 
both hands, and told her children to do the 
same, for it was " the gentleman who saved 
papa." There was no ceremony ; he was 
received quite en famille ; no other guest 
was present, and three or four of the children 
dined at table. He appeared to find favour 
with them all. He talked on business mat- 
ters with Mr. Henry Hunter ; on lighter 
topics with his wife ; he pointed out some 
errors in Mary Hunter's drawings, which she 
somewhat ostentatiously exhibited to him, 
and showed her how to rectify them. He 
entered into the school life of the two young 
boys, from their classics to their scrapes ; 
and nursed a pretty little lady of five, w^ho 
insisted on appropriating his knee — bearing 
himself throughout all with the modest 
reticence — the refinement of the innate gen- 
tleman. JVIrs. Hemy Hunter was charmed 
with him. 

" How do you think you shall like your 



8S A life's secret. 

quarters?" she asked. "Mr. Hunter told 
me he recommended you to Peter Quale's." 

" Very well. At least they will do. Mrs. 
Quale, it appears, is an old friend of mine." 

" An old friend ! Of yours ! ' ' 

" She claims me as one, and says she has 
nursed me many a time when I was a child. 
I had quite forgotten her, and all about her, 
though I now remember her name. She 
was formerly a servant in my mother's 
family, near Ketterford." 

Thus Austin Clay had succeeded without 
delay or difficulty in obtaining employment, 
and was, moreover, received on a footing of 
equality in the house of Mr. Henry Hunter. 
We shall see how he gets on. 



CHAPTER V. 

MISS gwinn's visit. 

Were there space, it might be well to 
trace Austin Clay's progress step by step — 
bis advancements and bis drawbacks — bis 
smootb-saibng and bis difficulties ; for, tbat 
bis course was not free from difficulties and 
drawbacks, you may be very sure. I do not 
know wbose is. If any bad tbougbt be was 
to be represented as perfection, tbey were 
mistaken. Yet be managed to bold on bis 
way without moral damage, for be was high- 
principled in every sense of the word. But 
there is neither time nor space to give to 
these particulars that regard himself alone. 

Austin Clay sat one day in a small room 
of the office, making corrections in a certain 
plan, which had been roughly sketched. It 
was a hot day for the beginning of autumn, 



90 A life's secret. 

some three or four montlis having elapsed 
since his installation at Hunter and Hunter's. 
The office boy came in to interrupt him. 

"Please, sir, here's a lady outside, asking 
if she can see young Mr. Clay." 

"A lady!" repeated Austin, in some 
wonder. " Who is it ?" 

" I think she's from the country, sir," said 
the sharp boy. " She have got a big nose- 
gay in her hand and a brown reticule." 

"Does she wear widow's weeds ? " ques- 
tioned Austin hastily, an idea flashing over 
him that Mrs. Thornimett might have come 
up to town. 

"Weeds?" replied the boy, staring, as if 
at a loss to know what " weeds " might 
mean. " She have got a white veil on, 
sir." 

"Oh," said Austin. "Well, ask her to 
come in. But I don't know any lady that 
can want me. Or who has any business to 
come here if she does," he added to himself 

The lady came in : a very tall one. She 
wore a dark silk dress, a shepherd's plaid 
shawl, a straw bonnet, and a white veil. The 



r 

MISS gwinn's visit. 91 

reticule spoken of by tlie boy was in ber 
hand ; but the nosegay she laid down on a 
bench just outside tEe door. Austin rose to 
receive her. 

" You are doubtless surprised to see me, 
Austin Clay. But, as I was coming to 
London on business — I always do at this 
season of the year — I got your address from 
Mrs. Thornimett, having a question to put 
to you." 

Without ceremony, without invitation, she 
sat herself down on a chair. More by her 
voice than her features — for she kept her 
veil before her face — did Austin recognise 
her. It was Miss Gwinn. He recognised 
her with dismay. Mr. Heury Hunter was 
about the premises, liable to come in at any 
moment, and then might occur a repetition 
of that violent scene to which he had been a 
witness. Often and often had his muid 
recurred to the affair; it perplexed him 
beyond measure. Was Mr. Henry Hunter 
the stranger to her he asserted himself to be, 
or was he not? "What shall I do with 
her ? " thought Austin. 



92 A life's secret. 

"Will you shut tlie door ? " slie said, in a 
peremptory, short tone, for the boy had left 
it open. 

"I beg' your pardon. Miss Gwinn," inter- 
rupted Austin, necessity giving him courage. 
" Though glad to see you myself, I am at 
the present hour so busy that it is next to 
impossible for me to give you my attention. 
If you "wiU name any place where I can wait 
upon you after business hours, this, or any 
other evening, I shall be happy to meet 
you." 

Miss Gwinn ranged her eyes round the 
room, looking, possibly, for confirmation of 
his words. " You are not so busy as to be 
unable to spare a minute to me. You were 
but looking over a plan." 

" It is a plan that is being waited for." 
Which was true. " And you must forgive 
me for reminding you — I do it in all 
courtesy — that my time and this room do 
not belong to me, but to my employers." 

" Boy ! what is your motive for seeking to 
get rid of me ? " she asked, abruptly. " That 
you have one, I can see." 



MISS GWINNS VISIT. 93 

Austin was -upon thorns. He had not 
taken a seat. He stood near the door, pencil 
in hand, hoping it would induce her to 
move. At that moment footsteps were heard, 
and the office-door was pushed wide open. 

It was Mr. Hunter. He stopped on the 
threshold, seeing a lady, an unusual sight 
there, and came to the conclusion that it 
must be some stranger for Mr. Clay. Her 
features, shaded by the thick white veil, 
were indistinct, and Mr. Hunter but glanced 
at her. Miss Gwinn on the contrary looked 
full at him, as she did at most people, and 
bent her head as a slight mark of courtesy. 
He responded by lifting his hat, and went 
out again. 

" One of the principals, I suppose ? " she 
remarked. 

"Yes," he replied, feeling thankful that it 
was not Mr. Henry. " I believe he wants 
me, Miss Gwinn." 

" I am not going to keep you from him. 
The question I wish to put to you will be 
answered in a sentence. Austin Clay, have 
you, since " 



94 A life's seceet. 

"Allow me one single instant first, then," 
interrupted Austin, resigning himself to bis 
fate, "just to speak a word of explanation to 
Mr. Hunter." 

He stepped out of the room and closed the 
door behind him. Standing at the outer 
door, close by, open to the yard, was Mr. 
Hunter. Austin, in his haste and earnest- 
ness, grasped his arm. 

" Find Mr. Henry, sir," he whispered. 
" Wherever he may be, let him keep there — • 
out of sight — until she — this person — has 
gone. It is Miss Gwinn." 

" Who ? What do you say ? " cried Mr. 
Hunter, staring at Austin. 

" It is that Miss Gwinn. The woman who 
set upon Mr. Henry in that strange manner. 
She " 

Miss Gwinn opened the door at this 
juncture, and looked out upon them. Mr. 
Hunter walked briskly away in search 
of his brother. Austin turned back 
again. 

She closed the door when he was inside 
the room, keeping her hand upon it. She 



I 



MISS gwinn's visit. 95 

did not sit down, but stood facing Austin, 
whom she held before her with the other 
hand. 

"Have you, since you came to London, 
seen ought of my enemy ? — that man wliom 
you saved from his death in the gravel pits ? 
Boy ! answer me truthfully." 

He remained silent, scarcely seeing what 
his course ought to be ; or whether in such 
a case a lie of denial might not be justifiable. 
But the hesitation spoiled that, for she read 
it arightly. 

"No need of your affirmative," she said. 
"I see you have met him. Where is he to 
be found ? " 

There was only one course for him now ; 
and he took it, in all straightforward 
openness. 

" It is true I have seen that gentleman, 
Miss Gwinn, but I can tell you nothing 
about him." 

She looked fixedly at him. " That you 
cannot, or that you will not ? Which ? " 

"That I will not. Forgive the seeming 
incivility of the avowal, but I consider that 



96 A LIFES SECRET. 

I ought not to comply with your request — • 
that I should be doing wrong." 

" Explain. What do you mean by 
wrong J 

" In the first place, I believe you were 
mistaken with regard to the gentleman : I 
do not think he was the one for whom you 
took him. In the second place, even if he 
be the one, I cannot make it my business to 
bring you into contact with him, and so 
give rise — as it probably would — to further 
violence." 

There was a pause. She threw up her 
veil and looked fixedly at him, struggling 
for composure, her lips compressed, her face 
working. 

"You know who he is, and where he 
lives," she jerked forth. 

" I acknowledge that." 

" How dare you take part against me ? '' 
she cried, in agitation. 

" I do not take part against you. Miss 
Gwinn," he replied, wishing some friendly 
balloon would come and whirl her away ; 
for Mr. Hunter might not find his brother to 



MISS gwinn's visit. 97 

give the warning. " I do not take his part 
more than I take yours, only in so far as 
that I decline to tell you who and where he 
is. Had he the same ill-feeling to^v^ards 
you, and wished to know where you might 
be found, I would not tell him.'' 

" Austin Clay, you shall tell me." 

He drew himself up to his full height, 
speaking in all the quiet consciousness of 
resolution. "Never, of my own free will. 
And I think. Miss Gwinn, there are no 
means by which you can compel me." 

" Perhaps the law might 1 " She spoke 
dreamily, not in answer to him, but in com- 
mune with herself, as if debating the ques- 
tion. " Fare you well for the present, young- 
man ; but I have not done with you." 

To his intense satisfaction she turned out 
of the office, catching up the flowers as she 
went. Austin attended her to the outer 
gate. She strode straight on, not deigning 
to cast a glance to the busy yard, -with its 
sheds, its timber, its implements of work, 
and its artisans, all scattered about it. 

" Believe me," he said, holding out his 



98 A LIFES SECRET. 

hand as a peace offering, " I am not wil- 
lingly discourteous. I wish I could see my 
way clear to help you." 

She did not take the hand ; she walked 
away without another word or look, and 
Austin went back again. Mr. Hunter ad- 
vanced to meet him from the upper end of 
the yard, and went with him into the small 
room. 

" What was all that, Clay ? I scarcely 
understood." 

" I dare say not, sir, for I had no time to 
be explanatory. It seems she — Miss Gwinn 
— has come to town on business. She pro- 
cured my address from Mrs. Thornimett, and 
came here to ask of me if I had seen any- 
thing of her enemy — meaning Mr. Hemy 
Himter. I feared lest he should be commg 
in ; I could only beg of you to find Mr. 
Henry, and Avarii him not. That is all, 
sir." 

Mr. Hunter stood with his back to Austin, 
softly whistling^ — his habit when in deep 
thought. "What can be her motive for 
wanting to find him ? " he presently said. 



MISS gwinn's visit. 99 

" She speaks of revenge. Of course I do 
not know for wliat : I cannot give a guess. 
There's no doubt she is mistaken in the per- 
son, when she accuses Mr. Henry Hunter." 

"Well/' returned Mr. Hunter, "I said 
nothing to my brother, for I did not under- 
stand what there was to say. It will be 
better not to tell him now ; the woman is 
gone, and the subject does not appear to be 
a pleasant one. Do you hear ? " 

" Very well, sir." 

" I think I understood, when the affair 
was spoken of some time ago, that she does 
not know him as Mr. Hunter ? " 

" Of course she does not," said Austin. 
" She would have been here after him before 
now if she did. She came this mornino; to 
see me, not suspecting she might meet 
him." 

. " Ah ! Better keep the visit close," cried 
Mr. Hunter, as he walked away. 

Now, it had occurred to Austin that it 
would be better to do just the opposite thing. 
He should have told Mr. Henry Hunter, and 
left that gentleman to seek out Miss Gwinn, 

H 2 



100 A life's secret. 

or not, as lie might choose. A sudden meet- 
ing between them in the office, in the hear- 
ing of the yard, and with the lady in excite- 
ment, was not desirable ; but, that Mr. 
Henry Hunter should clear himself, now 
that she was following him up, and convince 
her it was not he who was the suspected 
party, was, Austin thought, needful : that is, 
if he could do it. However, he could only 
obey Mr. Hunter's suggestions. 

Austin resumed his occupation. His brain 
and fingers were busy over the plan, when 
he saw a gig drive into the yard. It con- 
tained the great engineer. Sir Michael Wil- 
son. Mr. Henry Hunter came down the 
yard to meet him ; they shook hands, and 
entered the private room together. In a few 
minutes Mr. Hemy came to Austin. 

" Are you particularly engaged. Clay ? " 

" Only with this plan, sii-. It is wanted 
as soon as I can get it done." 

'' You can leave it for a quarter of an 
hour. I wish you to go round to Dr. Bevary. 
I was to have been at his house now — half- 
past eleven — to accompany him on a visit to 



MISS gwinn's visit. 101 

a sick friend. Tell him that Sir Michael 
has come, and I have to go out with him, 
therefore it is impossible for me to keep my 
engagement. I am very sorry, tell Bevary : 
these things always happen crossly. Go 
right into his consulting-room, Clay ; never 
mind patients ; or else he will be chafing 
at my delay, and grumble the ceiling 
off"." 

Austin departed. Dr. Bevary occupied a 
good house in the main street, to the left of 
the yard, to gain which he had to pass the 
turning to Daffodil's Delight. Had Dr. 
Bevary lived to the right of the yard, his 
practice might have been more exclusive ; 
but doctors cannot always choose their lo- 
calities, circumstances more frequently doing 
that for them. He had a large connection, 
and was often pressed for time. 

Down went Austin, and gained the house. 
Just inside the open door, before which a 
close carriage was standing, was the doctor's 
servant. 

" Doctor Bevary is engaged, sir, with 
a lady patient," said the man. " He is 



102 A life's seceet. 

very particularly engaged for the moment, 
but I don't think he'll be long." 

" I'll wait," said Austin, not deeming it 
well strictly to follow Mr. Henry Hunter's 
directions ; and he turned, without cere- 
mony, to the little box of a study on the left 
of the hall. 

" Not there, sh*," interposed the man 
hastily, and he showed him into the drawing- 
room on the right ; Dr. Bevary and his 
patient being in the consulting-room. 

Ten minutes of impatience to Austin. 
What could any lady mean by keeping him 
so long, in his own house ? Then they came 
forth. The lady, a very red and portly one, 
rather old, was pushed into her carriage by 
the help of her footman, Austin watching 
the process from the window. The carriage 
then drove off. 

The doctor did not come in. Austin con- 
cluded the servant must have forgotten to 
tell him he was there. He crossed the hall 
to the little study, the doctor's private room, 
knocked and entered. 

" I am not to care for patients," called 



MISS gwtnn's visit. ]03 

out lie gaily, believing tlie doctor was alone ; 
" Mr. Henry Hnnter says so." But, to liis 
surprise, a patient was sitting there — at 
least, a lady ; sitting, nose and knees to- 
gether, with Dr. Bevary, and talking hur- 
riedly and earnestly, as if they had the 
whole weioiit of the nation's affairs on their 
shoulders. 

It was Miss Gwinn. The flowers had 
apparently found their home, for they were 
in a vase on the table. Austin took it all in 
at a glance. 

" So it is you, is it, Austin Clay ! " she 
exclaimed. " I was acquainting Dr. Bevary 
with your refusal to give me that man's 
address, and asking his opinion whether the 
law could compel you. Have you come 
after me to say you have thought better 
ofitr' 

Austin was decidedly taken aback. It 
might have been his fancy, but he thought 
he saw a look of caution go out to him from 
Dr. Bevary's eyes. 

" Was your visit to this lady, Mr. Clay ? " 

" No, sir, it was to you. Sir Michael 



104 A life's secret. 

Wilson has come down on business, and Mr. 
Henry Hunter will not be able to keep liis 
appointment with you. He desired me to 
say that he was sorry, but that it was no 
fault of his." 

Dr. Bevary nodded. "Tell him I was 
about to send round to say that I could 
not keep mine with him, so it's all right. 
Another day will " 

A sharp cry. A cry of passion, of rage, 
almost of terror. It came from Miss Gwinn ; 
and the doctor, breaking off his sentence, 
turned to her in amazement. 

It was well he did so ; it was well he 
caught her hands. Another moment, and 
she would have dashed them through the 
window, and perhaps herself also. Driving 
by, in the gig, were Sir Michael Wilson and 
]\Ir. Henr}^ Hunter. It was at the latter she 
gazed, at him she pointed. 

" Do you see him ? Do you see him ? " 
she panted to the doctor. " That's the 
man ; not the one driving ; the other — the 
one sitting this way. Oh, Dr. Bevary, will 
you believe me now ? I told you I met him 



MISS gwinn's visit. 105 

at Ketterford ; and there he is again ! Let 
me go ! " 

She was strong almost as a wild animal, 
wrestling with the doctor to get from him. 
He made a motion to Austin to keep the 
door, and there ensued a sharp struggle. 
Dr. Bevary got her into an arm-chair 
at last, and stood before her, holding her 
hands, at first in silence. Then he 
spoke calmly, soothingly, as he would to a 
child. 

" My dear lady, what will become of you 
if you give way to these fits of violence ? 
But for me, I really beheve you Avould have 
been through the window. A pretty afiuir 
of spikes that would be ! I should have 
had you laid up in my house for a month, 
covered over with sticking-plaster." 

" If you had not stopped me I might 
have caught that gig," was her passionate 
rejoinder. 

" Caught that gig ! A gig going at the 
rate of ten miles an hour, if it was going 
one ! By the time you had got down the 
steps of my door it would havQ been out of 



106 A life's secret. 

sight. How peoj^le can drive at tliat random' 
rate in London streets, / can't tliink." 

" How can I find liim ? How can I find 
him ? " 

Her tone Avas quite a wail of anguish. 
However they might deprecate her mistaken 
violence, it was impossible but that both her 
hearers should feel compassion for her. She 
laid her hand on the doctor's arm. 

" Will you not help me to find him. Dr. 
Bevary ? Did you note him ? " 

" So far as to see that there Avere two per- 
sons in the gig, and that they were men, not 
women. Do you feel sure it Avas the man 
you speak of ? It is so easy to be mistaken 
in a person who is being whirled along 
swiftly." 

"Mistaken ! " she returned, in a strangely 
significant tone. " Dr. Bevary, I am sure it 
was he. I have not kept him in my mind 
for years, to mistake him now. Austin 
Clay," she fiercely added, turning round upon 
Austin, '■'■ you speak; speak the truth : I saw 
you look after them. AVas it, or was it not, 
the man Avhom I met at Ketterford ? " 



MISS gwinn's visit. 107 

" I Believe it was," was Austin's answer. 
" Nevertheless, Miss Gwinn, I do not believe 
him to be the enemy yon spoke of — the one 
who worked you ill. He denies it just as 
solemnly as you assert it ; and I am sure he 
is a truthful man." 

" And that I am a liar ? " 

" No. That you believe what you assert, 
is only too apparent. I think it a case, on 
your side, of mistaken identity." 

Happening to raise his eyes, Austin caught 
those of Dr. Bevary fixed upon him Avith a 
keen, troubled, earnest gaze. It asked, as 
plainly as a gaze could ask, " Do you believe 
so ? or is the falsehood on his side ? " 

" Will you disclose to ,Dr. Bevary the 
name of that man, if you will not to 
me ? " 

Again the gentlemen's eyes met, and this 
time an unmistakeable warning of caution 
gleamed forth from Dr. Bevary's. Austin 
could only obey it. 

"I must decline to speak of him in any 
way, Miss Gwinn," said he ; " you had my 
reasons before. Dr. Bevary, I have given 



108 A life's secret. 

you the message I was cliarged with. I 
must wish you both good day." 

Austin walked back, full of thought, his 
belief somewhat wavering. " It is very 
strange," he reflected. " Could a woman, 
could any one be so positive as she is, unless 
thoroughly sure ? What is the mystery, I 
wonder '? That it was no sentimental affair 
between them, or rubbish of that sort, is 
patent by the difference of their ages ; she 
looks pretty nearly old enough to be his 
mother. Mr. Henry Hunter's is a remark- 
able <face — one that would alter httle in a 
score of years." 

The bell was ringing twelve as he ap- 
proached the yard, and the workmen were 
pouring out of it, on their way home to 
dinner. Plentiful tables awaited them ; little 
care was on their minds ; flourishing was 
every branch of the building trade then. 
Peter Quale came up to Austin. 

" Sam Shuck have just been up here, sir, 
a-eating humble pie, and praying to be took 
on again. But the masters be both absent ; 
and Mr. Mills, he said he didn't choose, in a 



MISS gwinn's visit. 109 

thing like this, to act on liis own responsi- 
bility, for lie lieard Mr. Hunter say Shuck 
shouldn't again be employed." 

" I would not take him on," replied Aus- 
tin, " if it rested with me. An idle, skulking, 
deceitful vagabond, drunk and incapable at 
one time, striving to spread discontent among 
the men at another. He has been on the 
loose for a fortnight now. But it is not my 
affan. Quale ; Mr. Mills is manager." 

The yard, between twelve and one, was 
pretty nearly deserted. The gentleman, 
spoken of as Mr. Mills, and Austin, u^ally 
remained ; the principals would sometimes 
be there, and an odd man or two. The 
timekeeper lived in the yard. Austin rather 
liked that hour ; it was quiet. He was 
applying to his plan with a zest, when ano- 
ther interruption came, in the shape of Dr. 
Bevary. Austin began to think he might as 
well put the drawing away altogether. 

" Anybody in the offices, JMr. Clay, except 
you '? " asked the doctor. 

" Not indoors. Mills is about somewhere." 

Down sat the doctor, and fixed his keen 



1.10 A life's secret. 

eyes upon Austin. " Wliat took place liere 
this morning witli Miss Gwinn ? " 

" No harm, sir," replied Austin, briefly ex- 
plaining. " As it ha23penecl, Mr. Henry kept 
away. Mr. Hunter came in and saw her ; 
hut that was all." 

" What is your opinion 1 " abruptly asked 
tlie doctor. " Come, give it freely. You 
have your share of judgment, and of dis- 
cretion too, or I should UQt ask it. Is she 
mistaken, or is Henry Hunter false ? " 

Austin did not immediately reply. Dr. 
Bevary mistook the cause of his silence. 

"Don't hesitate. Clay. You know I am 
trustworthy ; and it is not I who would stir 
to harm a Hunter. If I seek to come to the 
bottom of this aitair, it is that I may do 
what I can to repair damage ; to avert some 
of the fruits of wrong-doing." 

" If I hesitated. Dr. Bevary, it was that I 
really am at a loss what answer to give. 
AVhen Mr. Henry Hunter denies that he 
knows the woman, or that he ever has known 
her, he appears to me to sj)eak open truth. 
On the other hand, these recognitions of Miss 



MISS gwinn's visit. Ill 

Gwinn's, and lier persistency, are, to say 
the least of tliem, suspicious and singular. 
Until witliin an hour I had full trust in Mr. 
Henry Hunter ; now I do not know what to 
think. She seemed to recognise him in the 
gig so surely." 

" He does not appear " — Dr. Bevary ap- 
peared to be speaking to himself, and his 
head was bent — " like one who carries about 
with him some dark secret." 

" Mr. Henry Hunter ? None less. Never 
a man whose outside gave indications of a 
clearer conscience. But, Dr. Bevary, if her 
enemy be Mr. Hemy Hunter, how is it she 
does not know him by name ? " 

" Ay, there's another point. She evi- 
dently attaches no importance to the name 
of Hunter." 

"What was the name of- — of the enemy 
she talks of?" asked Austin. "We must 
call him ' enemy ' for want of a better name. 
Do you know it, doctor ? " 

"No. Can't get it out of her. Never 
could get it out of her. I asked her again 
to-day, but she evaded the question." 



112 A life's secret. 

" Mr. Hunter tliougiit it would be better 
to keep ber visit this morning a secret from 
bis brotber, as tbey bad not met. I, on tbe 
contrary, sbould have told bim of it." 

"No," bastily interposed Dr. Bevary, 
putting up bis band witli an alarmed, warn- 
ing gesture. " The only way is, to keep ber 
and Henry Hunter apart.'' 

" I wonder," mused Austin, " wbat brings 
ber to town ? " 

Tbe doctor tlirew bis penetrating gaze 
into Austin's eyes. "Have you no idea 
wbat it is ? "' 

" None, sir. Sbe seemed to intimate tbat 
sbe came every year." 

" Good. Don't try to form any, my young 
friend. It would not be a pleasant secret, 
even for you to bold ! " 

He rose as be spoke, nodded, and went 
out, leaving Austin Clay in a state of puzzled 
bemlderment. It was not lessened wlien, 
an bour later, Austin encountered Dr. Bevary's 
close carriage, driving rapidly along tbe 
street, tbe doctor seated inside it, and Miss 
Gwinn beside bim. 



CHAPTER VI. 

TRACKED HOME. 

I THINK it licas been mentioned that the 
house next door to the Quales', detached 
from it, however, was inhabited by two 
famihes. The lower part by Mr. Samuel 
Shuck, his wife and children ; the upper 
and best part by the Baxendales. No two 
sets of people could be more dissimilar ; the 
one being as respectable as the other was 
disreputable. John Baxendale's wife was an 
invalid ; she had been so, on and off, for a 
long while. There was an only daughter, 
and she and her mother held themselves 
very much aloof from the general society of 
Daffodil's Delight. 

On the morning following the day spoken 
of in the last chapter, as distinguished by 
the advent of Miss Gwinn in London, Mrs. 



114 A life's secret. 

Baxendale found herself considerably worse 
than- usual. Mr. Kice, tlie apothecary, who 
was the general attendant in Daffodil's 
Delight, and lived at its corner, had given 
her medicine, and told her to " eat well and 
get up her strength." But, somehow, the 
strength and the appetite did not come ; on 
the contrary, she got weaker and weaker. 
She was in very bad spirits this morning, 
was quite unable to get up, and cried for 
some time in silence. 

" Mother, dear," said Mary Baxendale, 
going into her room, "you'll have the doctor 
gone out, I fear." 

" Oh, Mary 1 I cannot get up — I cannot 
go," was the answer, delivered with a burst 
of sobbing sorrow. " I shall never rise from 
my bed again." 

The words fell on the dauQ-hter with a 
terrible shock. Her fears in regard to her 
mother's health had long been excited, but 
this seemed like a confirmation of a result 
she had never dared openly to face. She 
was not a very capable sort of girl — the 
reverse of what is called strong-minded ; 



TRACKED HOME. 115 

but the instinct imparted by aU true affec- 
tion, warned her to make light of her 
mother's words. 

" Nay, mother, it's not so bad as that," 
she said, checking her tears. "You'll get 
up again fast enough. You are feehng low, 
maybe, this morning." 

" Child, I am too weak to get up — too 
ill. I don't think I shall ever be about 
a2:ain." 

o 

Mary sat down in a sort of helpless per- 
plexity. 

" What is to be done ? " she cried. 

Mrs. Bg-xendale asked herself the same 
question as she lay. Finding herself no 
better under Mr. Eice's treatment, she had 
at length determined to do what she ou^ht 
to have done at first — consult Dr. Bevary. 

From half-past eight to ten, three morn- 
ings in the week. Dr. Bevary gave advice 
gratis ; and Mrs. Baxendale was on this one 
to have gone to him — rather a formidable 
visit, as it seemed to her, and perhaps the 
very thought of it had helped to make her 
worse. 

i2 



116 A life's secret, 

" What is to be done ? " repeated Mary. 
" Could you not wait upon him, child, 
and describe my symptoms 1 " suggested the 
sick woman, after weighing the dilemma in 
her mind. " It might do as well. Perhaps 
he can write for me." 

" Oh, mother, I don't like to go I " ex- 
claimed Mary, in the impulse of the moment. 
" But, my dear, what else is to be done 1 " 
urged Mrs. Baxendale. " We can't ask a 
great gentleman like that to come to me." 

" To be sure — true. Oh, yes, I'll go, 
mother." 

Mary got herself ready without another 
word. Mrs. Baxendale, a superior woman 
for her station in life, had brought up her 
daughter to be thoroughly dutiful. It had 
seemed a formidable task to the mother, the 
going to this physician, this "great gentle- 
man ;" it seemed a far worse to the daughter, 
and especially the having to explain symp- 
toms and ailments at second-hand. But the 
great physician was a very pleasant man, 
and would nod good-humouredly to Mary, 
when by chance he met her in the street. 



. TRACKED HOME. 117 

" Tell him, with my duty, that I am not 
equal to coming myself," said Mrs. Baxen- 
dale, when Mary stood ready in her neat 
straw bonnet and light shawl. " I ought to 
have o'one weeks ag;o, and that's the truth. 
Don't forget to describe the pain in my 
right side, and the flushings of heat." 

So Mary went on her way, and was 
admitted to the presence of Dr. Bevary, 
where she told her tale with awkward 
timidity. 

" All ! a return of the old weakness that 
she had years ago," remarked the doctor. 
" I told her she must be careful. Too ill to 
get up ? Why did she not come to me 
before ? " 

" I suppose, sir, she did not much like to 
trouble you," responded Mary. " She has 
been hoping from week to week that Mr. 
Rice would do her good." 

" / can't do her good, unless I see her," 
cried the doctor. "I might prescribe just 
the wrong thing, you know." 

Mary repressed her tears. 

"I am afraid, then, she must die, sir. 



118 A life's secret. 

She said this morning she thought she should 
never get up from her bed again." 

" I'll step round some time to-day and 
see her," said Dr. Bevary. " But now, don't 
you go chattering that to the whole parish. 
I should have every sick person in it ex- 
pecting me, as a right, to call and visit 
them." 

He laughed pleasantly at Mary as he 
spoke, and she departed with a glad heart. 
The visit had been so much less formidable 
in reality than anticipation. 

As she reached Daffodil's Dehght, she did 
not turn into it, but continued her Avay to 
the house of Mrs. Hunter. Mary Baxen- 
dale took in plain sewing, and had some 
in hand at present from that lady. She 
inquired for Dobson. Dobson was Mrs. 
Hunter's own maid, and a very consequential 
one. 

"Not able to get Miss Hunter's night- 
dresses home on Saturday I " grumbled Dob- 
son, when she appeared and heard what 
Mary had to say. " But you must, Mary 
Baxendale. You promised them, you know.' 



TRACKED HOME. 119 

" I should not have promised had I known 
that my mother would have grown worse," 
said Mary. "A sick person requires a deal 
of waiting on, and there's only me. I'll do 
what I can to get them home next week, if 
that will do." 

" I don't know that it will do," snapped 
Dobson. "Miss Florence may be wanting 
them. A promise is a promise, Mary Bax- 
endale." 

" Yes, it will do, Mary," cried Florence 
Hunter, darting forward from some for- 
bidden nook, whence she had heard the col- 
loquy, and following Mary down the steps 
into the street. A fair sight was that child 
to look upon, with her white niushn dress, her 
blue ribbons, her flowing hair, and her sweet 
countenance, radiant as a summer's morning. 
" Mamma is not down-stairs yet, or I would 
ask her, — she is ill too, — but I know I do 
not want them. Never you mind them, and 
never mind Dobson either, but nurse your 
mother." 

Dobson drew the young lady back, asking 
her if such behaviour was not enouQ-h to 



120 A life's secret. 

" scandalise the square ; " and Mary Baxen- 
dale returned home. 

Dr. Bevary paid his visit to Mrs. Baxcn- 
dale about mid-day. His practised eye saw 
with certainty what others were only begin- 
ning to suspect — that Death had marked 
her. He wrote a prescription, gave some 
general directions, said he would call again, 
and told Mrs. Baxendale she would be 
better out of bed than in it. 

Accordingly, after his departure, she got 
up and went into the front room, which 
they made their sitting-room. But the 
exertion caused her to faint ; she was cer- 
tainly on this day much worse than usual. 
John Baxendale was terribly concerned, and 
did not go back to his work after dinner. 
When the bustle was over, and she seemed 
pretty comfortable again, somebody burst 
into the room, without knocking or other 
ceremony. It was one of the Shucks, a 
young man of eight, in tattered clothes, and 
a shock head of hair. He came to announce 
that Mrs. Hunter's maid was asking for 
Mary, and little Miss Hunter was there too, 



TRACKED HOME. 3 21 

and said, might slie come up and see Mrs. 
Baxendale. 

Both were requested to walk up. Dobson 
had brought a gracious message from her 
mistress (not graciously delivered, though), 
that the sewing might wait till it was quite 
convenient to do it ; and Florence produced 
a jar, which she had insisted upon carrying 
herself, and had thereby split her grey kid 
gloves, it being too large for her hands. 

"It is black currant jelly, Mrs. Baxen- 
dale," she said, with the prettiest, kindest 
air, as she freely sat down by the sick 
woman's side. " I asked mamma to let me 
bring some, for I remember when I was iU 
I only liked black currant jelly. Mamma 
is so sorry to hear you are worse, and she 
will come to see you soon." 

" Bless your httle heart, Miss Florence ! " 
exclaimed the invahd. " The same dear 
child as ever — thinking of other people, and 
not of yourself." 

"I have no need to think for myself," 
said Florence. " Everything I want is got 
ready for me. I wish you did not look so 



132 A LIFES SECRET. 

ill. I wisli you would have my uncle 
Bevary to see you. He cures everybody.''' 

" He lias been kind enough to come round 
to-day, miss," spoke up John Baxendale, 
" and he'll come again, he says. I hope he 
will be able to do the missis good. As you 
be a bit better," he added to his wife, " I 
think I'll go back to my work." 

" Ay, do, John. There's no cause for you 
to stay at home. It was some sort of weak- 
ness, I suppose, that came over me." 

John Baxendale touched his hair to Flo- 
rence, nodded to Dobson, and went down- 
stairs and out. Florence turned to the open 
window to watch his departure, ever rest- 
less, as a healthy child is apt to be. 

" There's Uncle Henry ! " she suddenly 
called out. 

Mr. Henry Hunter was walking rapidly 
down Daffodil's Delight. He encountered 
John Baxendale as the man went out of his 
gate. 

" Not back at work yet, Baxendale ? " 

"The missis has been taken worse, sir," 
was the man's YQ-ply. " She fainted dead off 



TRACKED HOME. 123 

just now, and I declare I didn't know what 
to think about her. She's all right again, 
and I am going round." 

At that moment there was heard a tap- 
ping at the window panes, and a pretty- 
little head was pushed out beneath them, 
nodding and laughing, " Uncle Henry ! How 
do you do. Uncle Henry ? " 

Mr. Henry Hunter nodded in reply, and 
pursued his way, unconscious that the lynx 
eye of Miss Gwinn was following him, like 
a hawk watching its prey. 

It happened that she had penetrated Daf- 
fodil's Delight, hoping to catch Austin Clay 
at his dinner, which she supposed he might 
be takino; about that hour. She held his 
adcbess at Peter Quale's from Mrs. Thorni- 
mett. Her object was to make a further 
effort to get from him what he knew of the 
man she sought to find. Scarcely had she 
turned into Daffodil's Delight, Avhen she saw 
Mr. Hemy Hunter at a distance. Away she 
tore after him, and gained upon him con- 
siderably. She reached the house of John 
Baxendale just as he, Baxendale, was re- 



124 A life's secret. 

entering it ; for lie had forgotten something 
he must take with him to the yard. Turn- 
ing her head upon Baxendale for a minute 
as she passed, Miss Gwinn lost sight of Mr. 
Henry Hunter. 

How had he disappeared ? Into the 
ground 1 or into a house ? or down any 
obscure passage that might be a short cut 
between Daffodil's Delight and some other 
Delio;ht ? or into that cab that was now 
Avhu'ling; onwards at such a rate ? That he 
was no longer visible, was certain : and Miss 
Gwinn was exceeding wroth. She came to 
the conclusion that he had seen her, and hid 
himself in the cab, though she had not 
heard it stop. 

But she had seen him spoken to from the 
window" of that house, where the workman 
had just gone in, and she determined to 
make inquhies there, and so strode up the 
path. In the Shucks' kitchen there were 
only three or four children, too young to 
give an answer. Miss Gwinn picked her 
way through them, over the dirt and grease 
of the floor, and ascended to the sitting-room 



TRACKED HOME. 125 

above. She stood a minute to take in its 
view. 

John Baxendale was on his knees, hunting 
among some tools at the bottom of a closet ; 
Mary was meekly exhibiting the progress ot 
the nightgowns to Dobson, who sat in state, 
sour enough to turn milk into curd ; the 
invalid was lying, pale, in her chair ; while 
the young lady appeared to be assisting at 
the tool-hunting, on her knees also, and 
chattering as fast as her tongue could go. 
All looked up at the apparition of the 
stranger, who stood there gazing in upon 
them. 

" Can you tell me where a gentleman of 
the name of Lewis lives ? " she began, in an 
indirect, diplomatic, pleasant sort of way, 
for she no doubt deemed it well to discard 
violence for tact. In the humour she was 
in yesterday, she would have said, sharply 
and imperiously, " Tell me the name of that 
man I saw now pass your gate." 

John Baxendale rose. " Lewis, ma'am ? 
I don't know anybody of the name." 

A pause. "It is very unfortunate," she 



126 A life's secret. 

mildly resumed. " I am in search of the 
gentleman, and have not got his address. I 
beheve he belono's to this neio-hbonrhood. 
Indeed, I am almost sm-e I saw him talking 
to you just now at the gate — though my 
sight is none of the clearest from a distance. 
The same gentleman to whom that young 
lady nodded." 

"That was my uncle Henry," called out 
the child. 

" Who ? " cried she, sharply, 

" It was Mr Henry Hunter, ma'am, that 
Avas," spoke up Baxendale. 

" Mr. Henry Hunter ! " she repeated, as 
she knit her brow on John Baxendale. 
"That gentleman is Mr. Lewis." 

*'No, that he is not," said John Baxen- 
dale. "I ought to know, ma'am; I have 
worked for him for some years." 

Here the mischief might have ended ; 
there's no telling ; but that busy little 
tongue of all tongues — ah ! what work they 
make ! — began clapping again. 

" Perhaps you mean my papa. Papa's 
name is Lewis — ^James Lewis Hunter. But 



TRACKED HOME. 127 

lie is never called Mr. Lewis. He is brother 
to my uncle Henry." 

A wild flush of crimson flashed over Miss 
Gwinn's sallow face. Somethino; within her 
seemed to whisper that her search was over. 
"It is possible I mistook the one for the 
other in the distance/' she observed, all her 
new diplomacy in full play. " Are they 
alike in person?" she continued to John 
Baxendale. 

"Not so much alike now, ma'am. In 
years gone by they were the very model 
of one another : but Mr. Hunter has grown 
stout, and it has greatly altered him. Mr. 
Henry looks just like what Mr. Hunter used 
to look." 

" And who are you, did you say ? " she 
asked of Florence with an emphasis that 
would have been quite wild, but that it was 
in a degi'ee su23pressed. " You are not Mr. 
Lewis Hunter's daughter ? " 
" I am," said Miss Florence. 

" And you have a mother ? " 

" Of course I have," repeated the child. 
A pause : the lady looked at John Baxen- 



128 A life's secret. 

dale. "Then Mr. Lewis Hunter is a mar- 
ried man ? " 

" To be sure lie is," said John, " ever so 
many years ago. Miss Florence is twelve." 

" Thank you," said Miss Gwinn abruptly 
turning away. " Good morning." 

She went down the stairs at a great rate, 
and did not stay to pick her steps over the 
grease of the Shucks' floor. 

" What a mistake to make 1 " was her 
inward comment, and she laughed as she said 
it. " I did not sufficiently allow for the lapse 
of years. If that younger one had lost his 
life in the gravel pits, he would have died an 
innocent man." 

Away to the yard now, as fast as her legs 
Avould carry her. In turning in, she ran 
against Austin Clay. 

" I want to speak with Mr. Hunter," she 
imperiously said. " Mr. Lewis Hunter — not 
the one I saw in the gig." 

" Mr. Hunter is out of town. Miss Gwinn," 
was Austin's reply. " We do not expect him 
at the yard to-day ; he will not be home in 
time to come to it." 



TRACKED HOME. 129 

" Boy ! you are deceiving me !" 

" Indeed I am not/' he returned. " Wliy 
should I ? Mr. Hunter is not in the habit of 
being denied to applicants. You might have 
spoken to him yesterday when you saw him, 
had it pleased you so to do." 

" I never saw him yesterday." 

" Yes, you did, Miss Gwinn. That gentle- 
man who came into the office and bowed to 
you was Mr. Hunter." 

She stared Austin full in the face, as if 
unable to beheve what he said. " Tliat Mr. 
Hunter ? — Lewis Hunter ?" 

"It was." 

" If so, how he is altered ! " And, throwing 
up her arms with a strange, wild gesture, she 
turned and strode out of the yard. The next 
moment Austin saw her come into it again. 

" I want Mr. Lewis Hunter's private 
address, Austin Clay." 

But Austin was on his guard now. He 
did not relish the idea of giving anybody's 
private address to such a person as Miss 
Gwinn, who might or might not be mad. 
She detected his reluctance. 



130 A life's secret. 

"Keep it from me if you choose, boy!" 
she said, with a laugh that had a ring of 
scorn. " Better for you perhaps to be on the 
safe side. The first workman I meet will 
give it me, or a court guide." 

And thus saying, she finally turned away. 
At any rate for the time being. 

Austin Clay resumed his work, and the 
day passed on to evening. When business 
was over, he went home to make some 
alteration in his dress, for he* had to go by 
appointment to Mr. Hunter's, and on these 
occasions he generally remained with them. 
It was beginning to grow dusk, and a chill- 
ness seemed to be in the air. 

The house occupied by Mr. Hunter was 
one of the best in the west-central square. 
Ascending to it by a flight of steps, and 
passing through a pillared portico, you found 
yourself in a handsome hall, paved in imita- 
tion of mosaic. Two spacious sitting-rooms 
were on the left ; the front one was used as 
a dining-room, the other opened to a con- 
servatory. On the right of the hall, a broad 
flight of stairs led to the apartments above, 



TRACKED HOME. 131 

one of whicli was a fine drawing-room, fitted 
up with costly elegance. 

Mr. and Mrs. Hunter were seated in the 
dining-room. Florence was there likewise, 
but not seated ; it may be questioned if she 
ever did sit, except when compelled. Dinner 
was over, but they frequently made this their 
evening sitting-room. The drawing-room 
up-stairs was grand, the room behind was 
dull ; this was cheerful, and looked out on 
the square. Especially cheerful it looked on 
this evening, for a fire had been lighted in 
the grate, and it cast a warm glow around in 
the fading twilight. 

Austin Clay was shown in, and invited to 
a seat by the fire, near Mrs. Hunter. He 
had come in obedience to orders from Mr. 
Hunter, issued to him when he, Mr. Hunter, 
had been going out that morning. His 
journey had been connected with certain 
buildings then in process, and he thought he 
might have directions to give with respect to 
the following morning's early work. 

A few minutes given by Austin and his 
master to business matters, and then the 



132 A life's secret. 

latter left the room, and Austin turned to 
]\Irs. Hunter. Unusually delicate she looked, 
as she half sat, half lay back in her chair, the 
firelight playing on her features. Florence 
had dragged forth a stool, and was sitting on 
it in a queer sort of fashion, one leg under 
her, at Austin's feet. He was a great 
favourite of hers, and she made no secret of 
the liking. 

" You are not looking well this evening," 
he observed, in a gentle tone, to Mrs. 
Hunter. 

" I am not feeling well. I scarcely ever 
do feel well ; never strong. I sometimes 
think, Mr. Clay, what a mercy it is that we 
are not permitted to foresee the future. If 
we could, some of us might be tempted to — 
to — " she hesitated, and then went on in a 
lower tone — " to pray that God might take 
us in youth." 

" The longer we live the more we become 
impressed with the wonderful wisdom that 
exists in the ordering of all things," replied 
Austin. " My years have not been many, 
comparatively speaking ; but I see it always. 



TRACKED HOME, 133 

and I know tliat I shall see it more and 
more." 

" The confirmed invalid, the man of care 
and sorrow, the incessant battle for existence 
with those reduced to extreme poverty, — had 
they seen their future, as in a mirror, how 
could they have borne to enter upon it ?" 
dreamily observed Mrs. Hunter. "And yet, 
I have heard people exclaim, ' How I wish I 
could foresee my destiny, and what is to 
happen to me !'" 

" But the cares and ills of the world do 
not come near you, Mrs. Hunter," spoke 
Austin, after a pause of thought. 

Mrs. Hunter smiled. " From the cares and 
crosses of the world, as we generally estimate 
cares and crosses, I am free. God has spared 
them to me. He does not overwhelm us 
with ills; if one iU is particularly our portion, 
we are generally spared from others. Mine 
lie in my want of health, and in the thought 
that — that — I am rarely free from pain and 
suffering," she concluded. But Austin felt 
that it was not what she had been about to say. 

" What should we do if all the ills came 



134 A LIFES SECRET. 

to US, mamma ? " cried Florence, wlio had 
been stiU, and was listening. 

"My dear, if all the ills came to us, God 
would show us a way to bear them. You 
know that He has promised so much : and 
His promises cannot fail." 

" Clay," cried Mr. Hunter, returning to 
the room and resuming his seat, " did any 
one in particular caU and want me to-day ?" 

" No, sir. Several came, but Mr. Henry- 
saw them." 

" Did Arkwright come ?" resumed Mr. 
Hunter?" 

" I think not ; I did not see him. That — 
lady — who was there yesterday, came again. 
She asked for you." 

A pause. Then Mr. Hunter spoke up 
sharply. " For my brother, you mean. She 
must have wanted him." 

" She certainly asked for you, sir. For 
Mr. Lewis Hunter." 

Those httle ears pricked themselves up, 
and their owner unceremoniously wheeled 
herself round on her stool, holding on by 
Austin's knee, as she faced her father. 



TRACKED HOME. 135 

" There was a lady came to Jolin Baxen- 
dale's rooms to-day, when I and Dobson 
were there, and she asked for Mr. Lewis 
Hunter. At least — it was the funniest thing, 
papa — she saw Uncle Henry talking to John 
Baxendale, and she came up and said he was 
Mr. Lewis, and asked where he lived. John 
Baxendale said it was Mr. Henry Hunter, 
and she said no, it was not Mr. Henry 
Hunter, it was Mr. Lewis. So then we found 
out that she had mistaken him for you, and 
that it was you she wanted. Who was she, 
papa V 

"She — she — ^her business was with Henry," 
spoke Mr. Hunter, in so confused, so startled 
a sort of tone, not as if answering the child, 
more as if defending himself to any who 
might be around, that Austin looked up 
involuntarily. His face had grown lowering 
and angry, and he moved his position, so that 
his wife's gaze should not fall upon it. 
Austin's did, though. 

At that moment there was heard a knock 
and ring at the house door, the presumable 
announcement of a visitor. Florence, much 



136 A life's secret. 

addicted to acting upon natural impulse, and 
thereby" getting into constant hot water with 
her governess, who assured her nothing could 
be more unbefitting a young lady, quitted 
her stool and flew to the window. By dint 
of flattenino; her nose and crushing her curls 
against a corner of one of its panes, she con- 
trived to obtain a partial view of the visitor. 

" Oh dear ! I hoped it was Uncle Bevary. 
Mamma's always better when he comes ; he 
tells her she is not so ill as she fancies. 
Papa!" 

" What 1 " cried Mr. Hunter quickly. 

"I do believe it is that same lady who 
came to John Baxendale's. She is as tall as 
a house." 

What possessed Mr. Hunter ? He started 
up ; he sprung half-way across the room, 
hesitated there, and glided back again. 
Glided stealthily as it were ; and stealthily 
touching Austin Clay, motioned him to fol- 
low him. His hands were trembling ; and 
the dark frown, full of embarrassment, was 
still upon his features. Mrs. Hunter noticed 
nothing unusual ; the apartment was shaded 



TRACKED HOME. 137 

in twilight, and slie sat with her head turned 
to the fire. 

" Go to that woman, Clay ! " came forth 
in a whisper from Mr. Hunter s compressed 
lips, as he drew Austin outside the room. 
" I cannot see her. You go." 

" What am I to say 1 " questioned Austin, 
feeling surprised and bewildered. 

" Anything ; anything. Only keep her 
from me." 

He turned back into the room as he spoke, 
and closed the door softly, for Miss Gwinn 
was already in the hall. The servant had said 
his master was at home, and was conducting 
her to the room where his master and mis- 
tress sat, supposing it was some friend come 
to pay an hour's visit. Austin thought he 
heard Mr. Hunter shp the bolt of the dining- 
room, as he walked forward to receive Miss 
Gwinn. 

Austin's words were quick and sharp, ar- 
resting the servant's footsteps. " Not there, 
Mark ! Miss Gwinn," he courteously added, 
presenting himself before her, " Mr. Hunter 
is unable to see you this evening." 



138 A life's secret. 

" Wlio gave you authority to interfere, 
Austin Clay ? " was the response, not spoken 
in a raving, angry tone, but in one of cold, 
concentrated determination. " I demand an 
interview with Lewis Hunter. That he is 
at home, I know, for I saw him through the 
window, in the reflection of the firehght, as 
I stood on the steps ; and here I will remain 
until I obtain speech of him, be it until to- 
morrow morning, be it until days to come. 
Do you note my words, meddling boy ? I 
demand the interview ; I do not crave it : 
he best knows by what right." 

She sat deliberately down on one of the 
hall chairs. Austin, desperately at a loss 
what to do, and seeing no means of getting 
rid of her save by forcible expulsion, knocked 
gently at the room door again. Mr. Hunter 
drew it cautiously open to admit him ; then 
slipped the bolt, entwined his arm within 
Austin s and drew him to the window. Mrs. 
Hunter's attention was absorbed by Flo- 
rence, who was chattering to her. 

" She has taken a seat in the hall, sir," he 
whispered. " She says she will remain there 



TRACKED HOME. 139 

until she sees you, though she should have 
to wait until the morning. I am sure she 
means it : stop there, she will. She says 
she demands the interview as a right." 

" No," said Mr. Hunter, " she possesses no 
right. But — perhaps I had better see her, 
and get it over : otherwise she may make 
a disturbance. Tell Mark to show her into 
the drawing-room, Clay ; and you stay here 
and talk to Mrs. Hunter." 

" What is the matter, that you are whis- 
pering ? Does any one want you ? " inter- 
rupted Mrs. Hunter, whose attention was 
at length attracted. 

"I am telling Clay that people have no 
right to come to my private house on busi- 
ness matters," was the reply given by Mr. 
Hunter. " However, as the person is here, I 
must see her, I suppose. Do not let us be 
interrupted, Louisa." 

" But what does she want ? — it was a 
lady, Florence said. Who is she % " re- 
iterated Mrs. Hunter. 

" It is a matter of business of Henry's. 
She ought to have gone to him." Mr. 



HO A life's secret. 

Hunter looked at liis wife and at Austin as 
lie spoke. The latter was leaving the room 
to do liis bidding, and Miss Gwinn suffered 
herself to be conducted quietly to the draw- 
ing-room. 

A full hour did the interview last. The 
voices seemed occasionally to be raised in 
anger, so that the sound penetrated to their 
ears down stau-s, from the room over-head. 
Mrs. Hunter grew impatient ; the tea waited 
on the table, and she wanted it. At length 
they were heard to descend, and to cross the 
haU. 

" James is showing her out himself," said 
Mrs. Hunter. "Will you tell him we are 
waiting tea, Mr. Clay ? " 

Austin stepped into the hall, and started 
when he caught sight of the face of Mr. 
Hunter. He was turning back from closing 
the door on Miss Gwinn, and the bright rays 
of the hall lamp fell full upon his counte- 
nance. It was of ghastly whiteness ; its ex- 
pression one living aspect of terror, of dread. 
He staggered, rather than walked, to a chair, 
and sank into it. Austin hastened to him. 



TRACKED HOME. 141 

" Oh, sir, what is it ? You are ill ? " 

The strong man, the proud master, calm 
hitherto in his native self-respect, was for 
the moment overcome. He leaned his fore- 
head upon Austin's arm, hiding its pallor, 
and put up his finger for silence. 

" I have had a stab, Clay," he whispered. 
" Bear with me, lad, for a minute. I have 
had a cruel stab." 

Austin really did not know whether to 
take the words hterally. " A stab ? " he 
hesitatingly repeated. 

"Ay. Here," touching his heart. " I wish 
I was dead. Clay. I wish I had died years 
ago; or that she had. Why was she per- 
mitted to live ? — to live to work me this 
awful" wrong ? " he dreamily wailed. " An 
awful wrong to me and mine ! " 

" What is it ? " spoke Austin, upon impulse. 
" A wrong 1 Who has done it ? " 

" She has. The woman now gone out. 
She has done it all." 

He rose, and appeared to be looking for 
his hat. " Mrs. Hunter is waiting tea, sir/' 
said the amazed Austin. 



142 A LIFES SECRET. 

" Tea ! " repeated Mr. Hunter, as if his 
brain were bewildered ; "I cannot go in 
affain to-nio-ht : I cannot see tliem. Make 
some excuse for me, Clay — anything. Why 
did that woman work me this crying wrong?" 

He took his hat, opened the hall door, and 
shut it after him mth a bang, leaving Austin 
in wondering consternation. 

Se returned to the dining-room, and said 
Mr. Hunter had been obliged to go out on 
business ; he did not know what else to say. 
Florence was sent to bed after tea, but Austin 
sat a short while longer with Mrs. Hunter. 
Something led back to the previous conver- 
sation, when Mrs. Hunter had been alluding 
to her state of health, and to some sorrow 
that was her daily portion. 

" What is it ? " asked Austin, in his im- 
pulsive manner. 

" The thought that I shall have to leave 
Florence without a mother." 

" Dear Mrs. Hunter, surely it is not so 
serious as that ! You may get better." 

" Yes ; I know I may. Dr. Bevary tells 
me that I shall. But, you see, the very fear 



TRACKED HOME. 143 

of it is hard to bear. Sometimes I think 
God is reconciling me to it by slow degrees." 
Later in the evening, as Austin was going 
home, lie passed a piece of clear ground, to 
be let for building purposes, at the end of 
the square. There, in its darkest corner, far 
back from the road, paced a man as if in 
some mental agony, his hat carried in his 
hands, and his head bared to the winds. 
Austin peered through the night with his 
quick sight, and recognised Mr. Hunter. 



CHAPTEE VII. 

ME. SHUCK AT HOME. 

Daffodil's Delight was in a state of 
commotion. It has often been remarked 
that there exists more real sympathy between 
the working classes, one for another, than 
amongst those of a higher grade ; and expe- 
rience generally seems to bear it out. From 
one end of Daffodil's Delight to the other 
there ran just now a deep feeling of sorrow, 
of pity, of commiseration. Men made 
inquiries of each other as they passed in 
the street ; women congregated at their 
doors to talk, concern on their faces, a ques- 
tion on their lips — " How is she ? What 
does the doctor say ? " 

Yes ; the excitement had its rise in one 
cause alone — the increased illness of Mrs. 
Baxendale. The physician had pronounced 



MR. SHUCK AT HOME. 145 

his opinion (little need to speak it, though, 
for the fact was only too apparent to all who 
used their eyes), and the news had gone 
forth to Daffodil's Delight — Mrs. Baxendale 
was past recovery ; was, in fact, dying ! 

The concern, universal as it was, showed 
itself in various ways. Visits and neigh- 
bourly calls were so incessant, that the 
Shucks openly rebelled at the " trampling up 
and down through their living-room," by 
which route the Baxendale apartments could 
alone be gained. The neighbours came to 
help ; to nurse ; to shake up the bed and 
pillows ; to prepare condiments over the fire ; 
to condole ; and, above all, to gossip : with 
tears in their eyes and lamentation in their 
tones, and ominous shakes of the head, and 
uplifted hands ; but still, to gossip : that 
lies in human female nature. They brought 
offerings of savoury delicacies ; or things 
that, in their ideas, stood for dehcacies — 
dainties likely to tempt the sick. Mrs. 
Cheek made a pint jug of what she called 
" buttered beer," a miscellaneous compound 
of scalding-hot porter, gin, eggs, sugar, and 



146 A life's seceet. 

spice. Mrs. Baxendale sipped a little ; but 
it did not agree witli her fevered palate, and 
she declined it for the future, with " thanks, 
all the same," and Mrs. Cheek and a crony 
or two disposed of it themselves with great 
satisfaction. All this served to prove two 
things — that good feeling ran high in Daffo- 
dil's Delight, and that means did not run 
low. 

Of all the visitors, the most effectual 
assistant was Mrs. Quale. She gossiped, it 
is true, or it had not been Mrs. Quale ; but 
she gave efficient help ; and the invalid was 
always glad to see her come in, which could 
not be said with regard to all. Daffodil's 
Delight was not wrong in the judgment it 
passed upon Mary Baxendale — that she was 
a " poor creature." True ; poor as to being 
clever in a domestic point of view, and in 
attending upon the sick. In mind, in culti- 
vation, in refinement, in gentleness, Mary 
Baxendale beat Daffodil's Delight hollow ; 
she was also a beautiful seamstress ; but in 
energy and capability Mary was sadly 
wanting. She was timid always — painfully 



ME. SHUCK AT HOME. 147 

timid in tlie sick-room ; anxious to do for 
lier mother all that was requisite, but never 
knowing how to set about it. Mrs. Quale 
remedied this ; she did the really efficient 
part ; Mary gave love and gentleness ; and, 
between the two, Mrs. Baxendale was thank- 
ful and happy. 

John Baxendale, not a demonstrative man, 
was full of concern and grief. His had 
been a very happy home, free from domestic 
storms and clouds ; and, to lose his wife, was 
anything but a cheering prospect. His 
wages were good, and they had wanted for 
nothing, not even for peace. To such, when 
trouble comes, it seems hard to bear — it 
almost seems as if it came as a wrong. 

" Just hold your tongue, John Baxendale," 
cried Mrs. Quale one day, upon hearing him 
express something to this effect. " Because 
you have never had no crosses, is it any 
reason that you never shall ? No. Crosses 
come to us aU sometime in our lives, in one 
shape or other." 

" But it's a hard thing for it to come iu 
this shape," retorted Baxendale, pointing to 



148 A life's secret. 

tlie bed. " I'm not repining or rebelling 
against what it pleases God to do ; but I 
can't see the reason of it. Look at some of 
the other wives in Daffodil's Delight ; 
shrieking, raving trollops, turning their 
homes into a bear-garden with their temj)ers, 
and driving; their husbands almost mad. If 
some of them were taken they'd never be 
missed : just the contrary." 

" John," interposed Mrs. Baxendale in her 
quiet voice, "when I am gone up there" — 
pointing with her finger to the blue October 
sky — " it may make you think more of the 
time when you must come ; may help you 
to be preparing for it, better than you have 
done." 

Mary Hfted her wan face, glowing now 
with the excitement of the thought. " Father, 
that may be the end — the reason. I think 
that troubles are sent to us in mercy, not in 
anger." 

"Think'?" ejaculated Mrs. Quale, tossing 
back her head with a manner less reverent 
than her words. " Before you shaU have 
come to my age, girl, it's to be hoped you'll 



MR. SHUCK AT HOME. 149 

knoiv they are. Isn't it time for tlie medi- 
cine V slie continued, seeing no other open- 
ing for a reprimand just then. 

It was time for the medicine, and Mrs. 
Quale poured it out, raised the invalid from 
her pillow, and administered it. John 
Baxendale looked on. Like his daughter 
Mary, he was in these matters an incapable 
man. 

"How long is it since Dr. Bevary was 
here V he asked. 

" Let's see ? " responded Mrs. Quale, who 
Hked to have most of the talking to herself, 
wherever she might be. " This is Friday. 
Tuesday, wasn't it, Mary? Yes, he was 
here on Tuesday." 

"But why does he not come oftener?" 
cried John, in a tone of resentment. " That's 
what I was wanting to ask about. When 
one is as ill as she is — in danger of dying — 
is it right that a doctor should never come 
a-near for three or four days ?" 

" Oh, John ! a great physician like Dr. 
Bevary ! " remonstrated his wife. "It is so 
very good of him to come at all. And for 



150 A life's secret. 

nothing, too ! He as good as said to Mary 
he didn't mean to charge." 

" I can pay him ; I'm capable of paying 
him, I hope," spoke John Baxendale. " Wlio 
said I wanted my wife to be attended out of 
charity 1 " 

"It's not just that, father, I think," said 
Mary. " He comes more in a friendly way." 

" Friendly or not, it isn't come to the pass 
yet, that I can't pay a doctor," said John 
Baxendale. " Who has let it go abroad that 
I couldn't r 

Taking up his hat, he went out on the 
spur of the moment, and bent his steps to 
Dr. Bevary's. There he was civil and 
humble enough, for John Baxendale was 
courteous by nature. The doctor was at 
home, and saw him at once. 

" Listen, my good man," said Dr. Bevary, 
when he had caught somewhat of his errand. 
" If, by going round often, I could do any 
good to your wife, I should go. Twice a 
day ; three times a day — by night, too, if 
necessary. But I cannot do her good : had 
she a doctor over her bed constantly, he 



MR. SHUCK AT HOME. 151 

could render no service. I step round now 
and then, because I see that it is a satis- 
faction to her, and to those about her ; not 
for any use I can be. I told you a week 
ago the end was not very far off, and that 
she would meet it calmly. She will be in 
no further pain — no worse than she is now." 

" I am able to pay you, sir." 

" That is not the question. If you paid me 
a guinea every time I came round, I should 
visit her no more frequently than I do." 

"And, if you please, sir, I'd rather pay 
you," continued the man. " I'm sure I don't 
grudge it ; and it goes against the grain 
to have it said that John Baxendale's ^dfe 
is attended out of charity. We Enghsh 
workmen, sir, are independent, and proud of 
being so." 

" Very good," said Dr. Bevary. " I should 
be sorry to see the day come when English 
workmen lost their independence. As to 
' charity,' we will talk a bit about that. 
Look here, Baxendale," the doctor added, 
laying his hand upon his shoulder, in his 
kind and familiar way, " you and I can 



152 A life's secret. 

speak reasonably together, as man to man. 
We both have to work for our living — you 
with the hands, I chiefly with the head — 
so, in that, we are equal, I go twice a week 
to see your wife ; I have told you why it is 
useless to go oftener. When patients come 
to me, they pay me a guinea, and I see them 
twice for it, which is equivalent to half-a- 
guinea a visit ; but, when I go to patients 
at their own houses, my fee is a guinea each 
time. Now, would it seem to you a neigh- 
bourly act that I should take two guineas 
weekly from your wages ? — quite as much, 
or more, than you gain. What does my 
going round cost me ? A few minutes' 
time ; a gossip with Mrs. Quale, touching 
the doings of Daff'odil's Delight, and a groan 
at those thriftless Shucks, in their pigsty of 
a room. That is the plain statement of 
facts ; and I should like to know what there 
is in it that need put your English spirit 
up. Charity ! We might call it by that 
name, John Baxendale, if I were the guinea 
each time out of pocket, through medicines 
or other things furnished to you." 



MR. SHUCK AT HOME. 153 

John Baxendale smiled ; but he looked 
only three parts convinced. 

" Tush, man ! " said the doctor ; " I may 
be asking you to do me some friendly ser- 
vice, one of these days, and then, you know, 
we should be quits. Eh, John ? " 

John Baxendale half put out his hand, 
and the doctor shook it. 

"I think I understand now, sir; and I 
thank you heartily for what you have said. 
I only wish you could do some good to the 
wife." 

" I wish I could, Baxendale," he replied, 
throwing a kindly glance after the man as 
he was moving away ; " I shan't brmg an 
action against you in the county court for 
these unpaid fees, Baxendale, for it wouldn't 
stand," called out the doctor. " I never 
was called in to see your wife — I went of 
my own accord, and have so continued to 
go, and shall so continue. Good day." 

As John Baxendale was descending the 
steps of the house door, he encountered 
Mrs. Hunter. She stopped him to inquire 
after his wife. 



154 A life's secret. 

'' Getting weaker daily, ma'am, thank you. 
The doctor has just told me again that 
there's no hope." 

" I am truly sorry to hear it," said Mrs. 
Hunter. " I will call in and see her. I did 
intend to call before, but something or other 
has caused me to put it off." 

John Baxendale touched his hat, and 
departed. Mrs. Hunter went in to her 
brother. 

" Oh, is it you, Louisa ? " he exclaimed. 
" A visit from you is somewhat a rarity. 
Are you feeling worse 1 " 

"Rather better, I think, than usual. I 
have just met John Baxendale," continued 
Mrs. Hunter, sitting down, and untying her 
bonnet strings. " He says there is no hope 
for his wife. Poor woman ! I wish it had 
been different. Many a worse woman could 
have been better spared." 

" Ah," said the doctor, " if folks were 
taken accordins; to our notions of whom 
might be best spared, what a world this 
would be ! Where's Miss Florence ? " 

" I did not bring her out with me, Robert. 



MR. SHUCK AT HOME. 155 

T came round to say a word to you about 
James," resumed Mrs. Hunter, her voice in- 
sensibly lowering itself to a tone of confi- 
dence. " Something is the matter with him, 
and I cannot imagine what." 

" Been eating too many cucumbers again, 
no doubt," cried the doctor. " He will go 
in at that cross-grained vegetable, let it be 
in season, or out." 

"Eating!" returned Mrs. Hunter, "I wish 
he did eat. For at least a fortnight — more, 
I think — he has not eaten enough to support 
a bird. That he is ill, is evident to all — 
must be evident ; but when I ask him what 
is the matter, he persists in it that he is 
quite well ; that I am fanciful : seems an- 
noyed, in short, that I should allude to it. 
Has he been here to consult you ? " 

" No," replied Dr. Bevary ; " this is the 
first I have heard of it. How does he seem ? 
What are his symptoms ? " 

" It appears to me," said Mrs. Hunter, 
almost in a whisper, "that the malady is 
more on the mind. There is no palpable 
disorder. He is restless, nervous, agitated ; 



156 A life's secret. 

so restless at night, tliat lie has now taken 
to sleep in a room apart from mine — not to 
disturb me, he says. I fear — I fear he may 
have been attacked with some dangerous 
inward malady, that he is concealing. His 
father, you know, died of " 

" Pooh ! Nonsense ! You are indeed 
becoming fanciful, Louisa," interrupted the 
doctor. " Old Mr. Hunter died of an unusual 
disorder, I admit ; but, if the symptoms 
of such appeared in either James or Henry, 
they would come galloping to me in hot 
haste, asking if my skill could suggest a 
preventive. It is no 'inward malady,' de- 
pend upon it. He has been smoking too 
much : or going in at the cucumbers." 

" Robert, it is something far more serious 
than that/' quietly rejoined Mrs. Hunter. 

"Wlien did you first notice him to be ill V 

" It is, I say, about a fortnight since. One 
evening there came a stranger to our house, 
a lady, and she ivould see him. He did not 
want to see her : he sent young Clay to 
her, who happened to be with us ; but she 
insisted upon seeing James. They were 



MR. SHUCK AT HOME. 157 

closeted toofether a long; while before she 
left ; and then James went out — on busi- 
ness, Mr. Clay said." 

"Welir' cried Dr. Bevary. "What has 
the lady to do with it ? " 

" I am not sure that she has anything to 
do with it. Florence told an incomprehen- 
sible story about the lady's having gone into 
Baxendale's that afternoon, after seeing her 
uncle Henry in the street and mistaking 
him for James. A Miss — what was the 
name ? — Gwinn, I think." 

Dr. Bevary, who haj)pened to have a 
small glass phial in his hand, let it fall to 
the ground ; whether by inadvertence, or 
that the words startled him, he best knew. 
" Well % " was all he repeated, after he had 
gathered the pieces in his hand. 

" I waited up till twelve o'clock, and 
James never came in. I heard him let him- 
self in afterwards with his latch-key, and 
come up into the dressing-room. I called out 
to know where he had been, it is so unusual 
for him to stay out, and he said he was 
much occupied, and that I was to go to 



158 A LIFES SECEET. 

sleep, for he had some writing to do. But, 
Eobert, instead of writing, he was pacing 
the house all night, out of one room into 
another; and in the morning — oh, I wish 
you could have seen him ! — he looked wild, 
wan, haggard, as one does who has got up 
out of a long illness ; and I am positive he 
had been weeping. From that time I have 
noticed the change I tell you of. He seems 
like one going into his grave. But, whether 
the illness is upon the body or the mind, I 
know not." 

Dr. Bevary appeared intent upon putting 
together the pieces of his phial, making 
them fit into each other. 

" It wUl all come right, Louisa ; don't 
fret yourself : something must have gone 
cross in his business. I'll call in at the 
office and see him." 

" Do not say that I have spoken to you. 
He seems to have quite a nervous dread of 
its being observed that anything is wrong 
with him ; has spoken sharply, not in anger, 
but in anguish, when I have pressed the 
question." 



ME. SHUCK AT HOME. 159 

" As if the lady could have had anything 
to do with it ! " exclaimed Dr. Bevary, in a 
tone of satire. 

" I do not suppose she had. I only men- 
tion the circumstances because it is since 
that evening he has changed. You can see 
what you think of him, and tell me after- 
wards." 

The answer was only a nod ; and Mrs. 
Hunter went out. Dr. Bevary remained in 
a brown study. His servant came in with 
an account that patient after patient was 
waiting for him, but the doctor replied by 
a repelling gesture, and the man did not 
again dare to intrude. Perplexity and pain 
sat upon his brow ; and, when at last he 
did rouse himself, he raised aloft his hands, 
and gave utterance to words that sounded 
very like a prayer : " I pray Heaven it may 
not be so ! It would kill Louisa." 

The pale, delicate face of Mrs. Hunter was 
at that moment bending over the invalid 
in her bed. In her soft, grey silk dress and 
light shawl, her simple straw bonnet with 
its white ribbons, she looked just the right 



160 A LIFES SECRET. 

sort of visitor for a sick chamber ; and lier 
voice was sweet, and her manner gentle. 

" No, ma'am, don't speak of hope to me," 
murmured Mrs. Baxendale. " I know that 
there is none left, and I am quite reconciled 
to die. I have been an ailing woman for 
years, dear lady ; and it is wonderful how 
those that are so get to look upon death, if 
they can but presume to hope their soul is 
safe, with satisfaction, rather than with 
dread. Though I dare not say as much yet 
to my poor husband." 

" I have long been ailing, too," softly 
replied Mrs. Hunter. " I am rarely free 
from pain, and I know that I shall never 
be healthy and strong again. But still — I 
do fear it would give me pain to die, were 
the fiat to come forth." 

" Never fear, dear lady," cried the invalid, 
her eyes brightening. " Before the fiat does 
come, be assured that God will have recon- 
ciled you to it. Ah, ma'am, what matters 
it, after all 1 It is a journey we must take ; 
and, when once we are prepared, it seems 
but the settino; off a little sooner or a little 



MR. SHUCK AT HOME. 161 

later. I got Mary to read me the burial 
service on Sunday : I was always fond (9i 
it ; but I am past reading now. In one 
part thanks are given to God for that lie 
has been pleased to deliver the dead out 
of the miseries of this sinful world. Ma'am, 
if He did not remove us to a better and a 
happier home, would the living be directed 
to give thanks for our departure from 
this?" 

" A spirit ripe for heaven," thought Mrs. 
Hunter, when she took her leave. 

It was Mrs. Quale who piloted her through 
the room of the Shucks. Of all scenes of 
disorder and discomfort, about the worst 
reigned there. Sam had been — ^you must 
excuse the inelegance of the phrase, but it 
was much in vogue in Daffodil's Delig-ht — 
" on the loose " again for a couple of days. 
He sat sprawling across the hearth, a pipe 
in his mouth, and a pot of porter at his 
feet. The wife was crying with her hair 
down ; the children were quarrelling in 
tatters ; the dirt in the place, as Mrs. Quale 
expressed it, stood on end ; and Mrs. 



16a A LIPES SECRET. 

Hunter wondered liow people could bear to 
live so. 

"Now, Sam Shuck, don't you see who is 
a standing in your presence ? " sharply cried 
Mrs. Quale. 

Sam, his back to the staircase door, really 
had not seen. He threw his pipe into the 
grate, started up, and pulled his hair to 
Mrs. Hunter in a very humble fashion. In 
his hurry he turned over a small child, and 
the contents of the pewter pot upon it. 
The child roared ; the wife took it up and 
shook its clothes in Sam's face, restraining 
her tongue till the lady should be gone ; 
and Mrs. Hunter stepped into the garden 
out of the 7nelee — glad to get there : Sam 
following her in a spirit of politeness. 

" How is it you are not at work to-day. 
Shuck?" she asked. 

"I am going to-morrow — I shall go for 
certain, ma'am." 

"You kno\\^. Shuck, I never do interfere 
with Mr. Hunter's men," said Mrs. Hunter. 
" I consider that intelligent workmen, as you 
are, ought to be above any advice that I 



MPt. SHUCK AT HOME. 163 

could offer. But I cannot help saying how 
sad it is that you should waste your time. 
Were you not discharged a little while ago, 
and taken on again under a specific promise, 
made by you to Mr. Henry Hunter, that 
you would be diligent in future ? " 

" I am diligent," grumbled Sam. " But 
why, ma'am — a chap must take holiday now 
and then. 'Tain't in human nature to be 
always having the shoulder at the wheel." 

" Well, pray be cautious," said Mrs. 
Hunter. " If you offend again, and get dis- 
charged, I know they will not be so ready 
to take you back. Kemember your little 
children, and be steady for their sakes." 

Sam went indoors to his pipe, to his 
wife's tongue, and to despatch a child to get 
the pewter pot replenished. 



4 



U2 



CHAPTER VIII. 

FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS ! 

Mrs. Hunter, turning out of Mr. Shuck's 
gate, stepped inside Mrs. Quale's, wlio was 
astonishing her with the shortcomings of the 
Shucks, and prophesying that their destiny- 
would be the workhouse, when Austin Clay 
came forth. He had been home to dinner, 
and was now going back to the yard. Mrs 
Hunter said good morning to her talkative 
friend, and walked away by Austin's side — 
Mrs. Baxendale, Sam Shuck, and Daffodil's 
Delight generally, forming themes of con- 
verse. Austin raised his hat to her when 
they came to the gates of the yard. 

" No, I am not about to part ; I am going 
in with you," said Mrs. Hunter. " I want 
to speak just a word to my husband, if he 
is at liberty. Will you find him for me ? " 



FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS ! 165 

" He has been in his private room all the 
morning, and is probably there still," said 
Austin. " Do you know where Mr. Hunter 
is ? " he inquired of a man whom they met. 

" In his room, sir," was the reply, as the 
man touched his cap to Mrs. Hunter. 

Austin led the way down the passage, 
and knocked at the door, Mrs. Hunter fol- 
lowing him. There was no answer; and 
believing, in consequence, that it was empty, 
he opened it. 

Two gentlemen stood within it, near a 
table, paper and pens and ink before them, 
and what looked like a cheque-book. They 
must have been deeply absorbed not to have 
heard the knock. One was Mr. Hunter : 
the other — Austin recognised him — Gwinn, 
the lawyer, of Ketterford. " I will not sign 
it ! " Mr. Hunter was exclaiming, with pas- 
sionate vehemence. " Five thousand pounds ! 
it would cripple me for life." 

" Then you know the alternative. I go 
this moment and " 

" Mrs. Hunter wishes to speak to you, 
sir," interposed Austin, drowning the words 



166 A LIFES SECRET. 

and speaking loudly. The gentlemen turned 
sharply round ; and when Mr. Hunter caught 
sight of his wife, the red passion of his face 
turned to a livid pallor. Lawyer Gwinn 
nodded faixdliarly to Austin. 

" How are you, Clay ? Getting on, I 
hope. Who is this person, may I ask ? " 

" This lady is Mrs. Hunter," haughtily 
replied Austin after a pause, surprised that 
Mr. Hunter did not take up the words — the 
offensive manner in which they were spoken 
— the insulting look that accompanied them. 
But Mr. Hunter did not aj^pear in a state 
to take anything up just then. 

Gwinn bent his body to the ground. 

" I beg the lady's pardon. I had no idea 
she was Mrs. Hunter." 

But so ultra-courteous were the tones, so 
low the bow, that Austin Clay's cheeks 
burnt at the covert irony. 

" James, you are ill," said Mrs. Hunter, 
advancing in her quiet, composed manner, 
but taking^ no notice whatever of the strano^er. 
" Can I get anything for you ? Shall we 
send for Dr. Bevary ? " 



FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS! 167 

" No, don't do tliat ; it is going off. You 
will oblige me by leaving us/' lie whispered 
to ber. " I am very busy." 

"You seem too ill for business/' she re- 
joined. "Can you not put it off for an 
hour ? Eest miglit be of service to you." 

" No, madam, the business cannot be put 
off," spoke up Lawyer Gwinn. 

And down he sat in a chau-, with a deter- 
mined air of conscious power — just as his 
sister had sat /herself down, a fortnight 
before, in Mr. Hunter's hall. 

Mrs. Hunter quitted the room at once, 
leaving her husband and the stranger in it. 
Austin followed her. Her face wore a puz- 
zled, vexed look, as she turned it upon 
Austin. " Who is that person ? " she 
asked. "His manner to me appeared to 
be strangely insolent." 

An instinct, for which Austin perhaps 
could not have accounted had he tried, 
caused him to suppress the fact that it was 
the brother of the Miss Gwinn who had 
raised a commotion at Mr. Hunter's house. 
He answered that he had not seen the 



168 A life's secret. 

person at the office previously, his tone 
being as careless a one as he could assume. 
And Mrs. Hunter, who was of the least sus- 
picious nature possible, let it pass. Her 
mind, too, was filled with the thought of her 
husband's sufferins; state. 

"Does Mr. Hunter appear to you to be 
ill 1 " she asked of Austin, somewhat ab- 
ruptly. 

" He looked so, I think." 

" Not now ; I am not alluding to the pre- 
sent moment," she rejoined. "Have you 
noticed before that he does not seem well ? " 

" Yes," replied Austin ; " this week or two 
past." 

There was a brief pause. 

"Mr. Clay," she resumed, in a quiet, kind 
voice, " my health, as you are aware, is not 
good, and any sort of uneasiness tries me 
much. I am going to ask you a confidential 
question. I would not put it to many, and 
the asking it of you proves that my esteem 
for you is great. That Mr. Hunter is ill, 
there is no doubt ; but whether mentally or 
bodily I am unable to discover. To me he 



FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS ! 169 

observes a most unusual reticence, his object 
probably being to spare me pain ; but I can 
battle better with a known evil than with an 
unkno^vn one. Tell me, if you can, whe- 
ther any vexation has arisen in business 
matters ? " 

" Not that I am aware of," promptly re- 
plied Austin. "I feel sure that nothing is 
amiss in that quarter." 

" Then it is as I suspected, and he must 
be suffering from some illness that he is con- 
cealing." 

She wished Austin good morning. He saw 
her out of the gate, and then proceeded to 
the room he usually occupied when engaged 
in-doors. Presently he heard Mr. Hunter 
and his visitor come forth, and saw the 
latter pass the window. Mr. Hunter came 
into the room. 

" Is Mrs. Hunter gone ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

" Do you know what she wanted ? " 

*' I do not think it was anything parti- 
cular. She said she should like to say a 
word to you, if you were disengaged." 



170 A LIFES SECRET. 

Mr. Hunter did not sj)eak immediately. 
Austin was making out certain estimates, 
and liis master looked over his shoulder. 
Not to look ; his mind was evidently all 
pre-occupied. 

"Did Mrs. Hunter inquire who it was 
that was with me ? " he presently said. 

"She inquired, sir. I did not say. I 
told her I had not seen the person here 
before." 

" You knew ? " in a quick, sharp accent. 

"Oh, yes." 

" Then why did you not tell her ? What 
was your motive for concealing it ? " 

The inquiry was uttered in a tone that 
could not be construed as proceeding from 
any emotion but that of fear. A flush came 
into Austin s ingenuous face. 

" I beg your pardon, sir. I never wish to 
be otherwise than open. But, as you had 
pre"sdously desired me not to speak of the 
lady who came to your house that night, I 
did not know but the same wish might 
apply to the visit of to-day." 

" True, true," murmured Mr. Hunter ; " I 



FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS ! 171 

do not wish this visit of the man's spoken of. 
Never mention his name, especially to Mrs. 
Hunter. I suppose he did not impose upon 
me," added he, with a poor attempt at a 
forced smile : " it loas Gwinn, of Ketterford, 
was it not 1 " 

" Certainly," said Austin, feeling surprised. 
" Did you not know him previously, sir ? " 

"Never. And I wish I had not known 
him now," 

" If — if — will you forgive my saying, sir, 
that, should you have any transaction with 
him, touching money matters, it is necessary to 
be wary. Many a one has had cause to rue the 
getting into the clutches of Lawyer Gwinn." 

A deep, heavy sigh, burst from Mr. 
Hunter. He had turned from Austin. The 
latter spoke again in his ardent sympathy. 

" Sir, is there any way in which I can 
serve you ? — any way % You have only to 
command me." 

" No, no. Clay. I fell into that man's 
clutches — as you have aptly termed it — 
years ago, and the penalty must be paid. 
There is no help for it.'^ 



172 A life's secret. 

" Not knowing liim, sir ? " 

"Not knowing him. And not knowing 
that I owed it, as I certainly did not know, 
until a week or two back. I no more sus- 
pected that — that I was indebted there, than 
that I was indebted to you." 

Mr. Hunter had grown strangely confused 
and agitated, and the dew was rising on his 
livid face. He made a hollow attempt to 
laugh it off, and seemed to shun the gaze of 
his clerk. 

" This comes of the freaks of young men," 
he observed, facing Austin after a pause, 
and speaking volubly. " Austin Clay, T will 
give you a piece of advice. Never put your 
hand to a bill. You may think it an inno- 
cent bit of paper, which can cost you at 
most but the sum that is marked upon it ; 
but it may come back to you in after years, 
and you must purchase it with thousands. 
Have nothing to do with bills, in any way ; 
they will be a thorn in your side." 

" So, it is a money affair ! " thought 
Austin. " I might have known it was no- 
thing else, where Gwinn was concerned. 



FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS ! 173 

Here's Dr. Bevary coming in, sir," he added 
aloud. 

The physician was inside the room ere the 
words had left Austin's lips. Mr. Hunter 
had seized upon a stray plan and seemed 
bent upon its examination. 

" Kather a keen-looking customer, that, 
whom I met at your gate," began the doctor. 
" Who was it ? " 

" Keen-looking customer ? " repeated Mr. 
Hunter. 

" A fellow dressed in black, with a squint 
and a white neckerchief; an iU-favoured 
fellow, whoever he is." 

" How should I know about him ? " re- 
plied Mr. Hunter, carelessly. " Somebody 
after the men, I suppose." 

But Austin Clay felt that Mr. Hunter did 
know ; that the description could only apply 
to Gwinn of Ketterford. Dr. Bevary en- 
twined his arm within his brother-in-law's, 
and led him from the room. 

" James, do you want doctoring ? " he en- 
quired, as they entered the one just vacated 
by Lawyer Gwinn. 



174 A life's secret. 

" No, I don't. What do you mean ? " 

" If you don't, you belie your looks; that's 
all. Can you honestly affirm to me that you 
are in robust health ? " 

" I am in good health. There is nothino^ 
the matter with me." 

" Then there's something else in the wind. 
What's the trouble ? " 

A flush rose to the face of Mr. Hunter. 

" I am in no trouble that you can relieve ; 
I am quite well. I repeat that I do not un- 
derstand your meaning." 

The doctor gazed at him keenly, and his 
tone changed to one of solemn earnestness. 

" James, I suspect that you are in trouble. 
Now, I do not wish to pry into it unneces- 
sarily; but I would remind you of the sound 
wisdom that lies in the good old proverb : 
' In the multitude of counsellors there is 
safety/ " 

" And if there is ? '' returned Mr. Hunter. 

" If you will confide the trouble to me, I 
will do what I can to help you out of it — 
whatever it may he — to advise with you as 
to what is best to be done. I am your 



FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS ! 173 

wife's brother ; could you have a truer 
friend?" 

" You are very kind, Bevary. I am in no 
danger. AVlien I am, I will let you know." 

The tone — one of playful mockery — grated 
on the ear of Dr. Bevary. 

" Is it assumed to hide what he dare not 
betray "? " thought he. 

Mr, Hunter cut the matter short by cross- 
ing the yard to the time-keeper's office ; and 
Dr. Bevary went out talking to himself : " A 
wilful man must have his own way." 

Austin Clay sat up late that night, reading 
one of the quarterly reviews ; he let the time 
slip by till the clock struck twelve. Mr. and 
Mrs. Quale had been in bed some time ; 
when nothing was wanted for Mr. Clay, Mrs. 
Quale was rigid in retiring at ten. Early to 
bed, and early to rise, was a maxim she was 
fond of, both in precept and practice. The 
striking of the church clock aroused him ; 
he closed the book, left it on the table, pulled 
aside the crimson curtain, and opened the 
window to look out at the night, before going 
into his chamber. 



176 A life's secret. 

A still, balmy night. The stars shone in 
the heavens, and DafFodil's Delight, for aught 
that could be heard or seen just then, seemed 
almost as peaceful as they. Austin leaned 
from the window; his thoughts ran not upon 
the stars or upon the peaceful scene around, 
but upon the curious trouble which seemed 
to be overshadowing Mr. Hunter. " Five 
thousand pounds ! " His ears had caught 
distinctly the ominous sum. " Could he 
have fallen into Lawyer Gwinn's ' clutches ' 
to that extent ? " 

There was much in it that Austin could 
not fathom. Mr. Hunter had hinted at 
" bills ;" Miss Gwinn had spoken of the 
" breaking up of her happy home ;" two 
calamities apparently distinct and apart. 
And how was it that they were in ignorance 
of his name, his existence, his 

A startling interruption came to Austin's 
thoughts. Mrs. Shuck's door was pulled 
hastily open, and some one panting with 
excitement, uttering faint sobbing cries, 
came running down their garden into Peter 
Quale's. It was Mary Baxendale. She 



FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS ! 177 

knocked sharply at tlie door with nervous 
quickness. 

" What is it, Mary '? " asked Austin. 

She had not seen him ; but, of course, the 
words caused her to look up. " Oh, sir," the 
tears streaming from her eyes as she spoke, 
" would you please call Mrs. Quale, and ask 
her to step in. Mother's on the wing." 

" I'll call her. Mary ! " — for she was 
speeding back again — " can I get any other 
help for you ? If I can be of use, step back 
and tell me." 

Sam Shuck came out of his house as 
Austin spoke, and went flying up Dafi'odil's 
Delight. He had gone for Dr. Be vary. The 
Doctor had desired to be called, should there 
be any sudden change. Of course, he did 
not mean the change of death. He could be 
of no use in that : but how could they dis- 
criminate ? 

Mrs. Quale was dressed and in the sick 
chamber Avith all speed. Dr. Bevary was 
not long before he followed her. Neigh- 
bours on either side put their heads out. 

Ten minutes at the most, and Dr. Bevary 



178 A life's secret. 

was out again. Austin was then leaning 
over Peter Quale's gate. He liad been in 
no urgent mood for bed before, and this 
little excitement, though it did not imme- 
diately concern him, afforded an excuse for 
not going to it. 

" How is she, sir ? " 

" Is it you ? " responded Dr. Bevary. "She 
is gone. 1 thought it would be sudden at 
the last." 

" Poor thing ! " ejaculated Austin. 

" Poor thing ? Ay, that's what we are 
all apt to say when our friends die. But 
there's little cause when the change has 
been prepared for, the spirit made ripe for 
heaven. She is gone to a world where there's 
neither sickness nor pain." 

Austin made no reply. The doctor spoke 
again after a pause. 

" Clay — to go from a solemn subject to one 
that — that may, however, prove not less 
solemn in the end — you heard me mention a 
stranger I met at the gates of the yard to- 
day, and Mr. Hunter would not take my 
question. Was it Gwinn of Ketterford ? " 



FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS ! 179 

The doctor had spoken in a changed, low 
tone, laying his hand, in his earnestness, on 
Austin's shoulder. Austin paused. He did 
not know whether he ought to answer. 

" You need not hesitate," said the doctor 
divining his scruples. " I can understand 
that Mr. Hunter may have forbidden you to 
mention it, and that you would be faithful 
to him. Don't speak ; your very hesitation 
has proved it to me. Good night, my young 
friend ; we would both serve him if we only 
knew how." 

Austin watched him away, and then went 
indoors, for Daffodil's Delight began to be 
astir, and to collect itself around him, Sam 
Shuck having assisted in spreading the 
news touching Mrs. Baxendale. Daffodil's 
Delight thought nothing of leaving its bed, 
and issuing forth in shawls and pantaloons 
upon any rising emergency, regarding such 
interludes of disturbed rest as socially agree- 
able. 



X 2 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE SEPARATION OF HUNTER AND HUNTER. 

Austin Clay sat at his desk at Hunter 
and Hunter's, sorting the morning letters, 
which little matter of emjDloyment formed 
part of his duties. It was the morning sub- 
sequent to the commotion in Daffodil's 
Delight. His thoughts were running more on 
that than on the letters, when the postmark 
"Ketterford" on two of them, caught his eye. 

The one was addressed to himself, the 
other to " Mr. Lewis Hunter," and the hand- 
writing of both was the same. Disposing of 
the rest of the letters as usual, placing those 
for the Messrs. Hunter in their room, against 
they should arrive, and dealing put any 
others there might be for the hands employed 
in the firm, according to their address, he 
proceeded to open his own. 



A SEPARATION. 181 

To ' tlie very end of it Austin read ; and 
then, and not till then, he began to suspect 
that it could not be meant for him. No 
name whatever was mentioned in the letter ; 
it began abruptly, and it ended abruptly ; 
not so much as " Sir," or " Dear Sir " was it 
complimented with, and it was simply signed 
"A. G." He read it a second time, and then 
its awful meaning flashed upon him, and a 
red flush rose to his brow and settled there, 
as if burnt into it with a branding iron. 
He had become possessed of a dangerous 
secret. 

There was no doubt that the letter was 
written by Miss Gwinn to Mr. Hunter. By 
some extraordinary mischance, she had mis- 
directed it. Possibly the letter, now lying 
on Mr. Hunter's desk, might be for Austin. 
.Though, what could she be writing about to 
him? 

He sat down. He was quite overcome 
with the revelation ; it was, indeed, of a 
terrible nature, and he would have given 
much not to have become cognizant of it. 
"Bills!" "money!" So that had been Mr. 



182 A LIFES SECRET. 

Hunter's excuse for the mystery ! No 
wonder he sought to turn suspicion into any 
channel but the real one. 

Austin was poring over the letter like one 
in a nightmare, when Mr. Hunter interrupted 
him. He crushed it into his pocket with all 
the aspect of a guilty man ; any one might 
have taken him in his confusion so to be. 
Not for himself was he confused, but he 
feared lest Mr. Hunter should discover the 
letter. Although certainly written for him, 
Austin did not dare to hand it to him, for it 
would never do to let Mr. Hunter know that 
he possessed the secret. Mr. Hunter had 
come in, holding out the other letter from 
Ketterford. 

" This letter is for you, Mr. Clay. It has 
been addressed to me by mistake, I con- 
clude." 

Austin took it, and glanced his eyes over 
it. It contained a few abrupt lines, and a 
smaller note, sealed, was inside it. 

" My l3rother is in London, Austin Clay. 
I have reason to think he wiU be calling 



A SEPARATION. 183 

upon tlie Messrs. Hunter. Will you watch 
for him, and give him the inclosed note 1 
Had he told me where he should put up in 
town, I should have had no occasion to 
trouble you. — A. Gwinn." 

Austin did not lift his eyes to Mr. 
Hunter's in his usual candid, open manner. 
He could not bear to look him in the face ; 
he feared lest his master might read in his 
the dreadful truth. 

" What am I to do, sir ? " he asked. 
" Watch for Gwinn, and give him the 
note V 

" Do this with them," said Mr. Hunter. 

Striking a wax match, he held both Austin's 
note and the sealed one over the flame until 
they were consumed. 

" You could not fulfil the request if you 
wished, for the man went back to Ketterford 
last night." 

He said no more. He went away again, 
and Austin lighted another match, and burnt 
the crushed letter in his pocket, thankful, so 
a r, that it had escaped Mr. Hunter. 



184 A life's secret. 

Trouble came. Ere many days had 
elapsed, there was dissension in the house of 
Hunter and Hunter. Thoroughly united 
and cordial the brothers had always been ; 
but now a cause of dispute arose, and it 
seemed that it could not be arranged. Mr. 
Hunter had drawn out five thousand pounds 
from the bank, and refused to state for what, 
except that it was for a "private pm^pose." 
The business had been a gradually increasing 
one, and nearly all the money possessed by 
both was invested in it ; so much as was not 
actually out, lay in the bank in their joint 
names, "Hunter and Hunter." Each pos- 
sessed a small private account, but nothing 
like sufficient to meet a cheque for five 
thousand pounds. Words ran high between 
them, and the sound penetrated to ears out- 
side their private room. 

His face pale, his lips compressed, his tone 
kept mostly subdued, James Hunter sat at 
his desk, his eyes falling on a ledger he was 
not occupied with, and his hand partially 
shading his face. Mr. Henry, more excited, 
giving way more freely to his anger, paced 



A SEPARATION. 185 

the carpet, occasionally stopping before the 
desk and before his brother. 

"It is the most unaccountable thing in 
the world/' he reiterated, "that you should 
refuse to say what it has been applied to. 
Draw out, surreptitiously, a formidable sum 
like that, and not account for it ! It is 
monstrous." 

" Henry, I have told you all I can tell 
you," rephed Mr. Hunter, concealing his 
countenance more than ever. "An old debt 
was brought up against me, and I was forced 
to satisfy it." 

Mr. Henry Hunter curled his lip. 

"A debt to that amount ! Were you 
mad?" 

" I did not — know — I — had — contracted 
it," stammered Mr. Hunter, very nearly losing 
his self-possession. "At least, I thought it 
had been paid. Youth's errors do come home 
to us sometimes in later life." 

" Not to the tune of five thousand pounds," 
retorted Mr. Henry Hunter. " It will cripple 
the business ; you know it will. It is next 
door to ruin." 



186 A life's secret. 

" Nonsense, Henry ! Tlie loss of five 
thousand pounds will neither cripple the 
business nor bring ruin. It will be my own 
loss : not yours." 

" How on earth could you think of giving 
it away ? Five thousand pounds !" 

" I could not help myself. Had I refused 
to pay it — " 

" Well ? " for Mr. Hunter had stopped in 
embarrassment. 

" I should have been compelled to do so. 
There. Talking of it will not mend it." 

Mr. Henry Hunter took a few turns, and 
then wheeled round sharply. " Perhaps 
there are other claims for ' youth's follies ' to 
come behind it V 

The words seemed to arouse Mr. Hunter. 
Not to anger ; but to what looked very hke 
fear — almost to an admission that it might 
be so. 

•' Were any such further claim to come, I 
would not satisfy it," he cried, wiping his 
face. " No, I would not ; I would go into 
exile first." 

" We must part," said Mr. Hemy Hunter, 



A SEPAEATION. 187 

tlie expression of liis brother's face quite 
startlino; him. " There is no alternative. I 
cannot risk the beggaring of my wife and 
children." 

"If it must be so, it must," was all the 
reply given. 

"Tell me the truth, James," urged Mr. 
Henry, in a more conciliatory tone. " I 
don't want to part. Tell me all, and let me 
be the judge. Sm'ely, man ! it can't be 
anything so very dreadful. You didn't set 
fire to yom' neighbour's house, I suppose ?" 

"I never thought the claim could come 
upon me. That is all I can tell you." 

" Then we part," decisively returned Mr. 
Henry Hunter. 

" Yes, it may be l^etter. If I am to go to 
ruin, it is of no use to drag you down into it." 

"If you are to go to ruin !" echoed Mr. 
Henry, regarding his brother attentively. 
" James ! is that an admission that other 
mysterious claims may really follow this one ?" 

" No, I think they will not. But we had 
better part. Only — let the cause of our 
separation be kept from the world." 



188 A life's secret. 

" I should be clever to l3etray the cause, 
seeing that you leave me in ignorance of 
what it may be/' answered Mr. Henry 
Hunter, who was feeling vexed, puzzled, and 
very angry. 

" I mean — let no shadow of the truth get 
abroad. The business is large enough for 
two firms, and we have agreed to carry it on 
apart. Let that be the plea." 

" You take it coolly, James." 

A strange expression — a wrung expression 
— passed over the face of James Hunter. 
" I cannot help myself, Henry. The five 
thousand pounds are gone, and of course it 
is right that I should bear the loss alone 
— or any other loss it may bring in its 
train." 

"But why not impart to me the 
facts ? " 

" No. It could not possibly do good ; and 
it might make matters infinitely worse. 
One advantage our separation will have; 
there is a great deal of money owing to 
us from difi'erent quarters, and this will 
call it in." 



A SEPARATION. 189 

" Or I don't see how you would carry 
anything on for your part, minus your five 
thousand pounds/' retorted Mr. Henry, in a 
spirit of satire. 

" Will you grant me a favour, Henry ? " 

" That depends upon what it may 
be." 

" Let the real grounds of our separation — 
this miserable affair that has led to it — be 
equally a secret from your wife, as from the 
world. I should not ask it without an 
urgent reason." 

" Don't you mean to tell Louisa ? " 

" No. The matter is one entirely 
my own; I do not wish to talk of it 
even to my wife. Will you give me 
the promise ? " 

" Very well. If it be of the consequence 
you seem to intimate. I cannot fathom you, 
James." 

" Let us apply ourselves now to the ways 
and means of the dissolution. That, at any 
rate, may be amicable." 

It was quite evident that he fully declined 
further allusion to the subject. And Mr. 



190 A life's secret. 

Henry Hunter obtained no better elucida- 
tion, then or later. 

It fell upon tbe world like a thunderbolt — 
that is, the world connected with Hunter and 
Hunter. They separate? so flourishing a 
firm as that ? The world at first refused to 
believe it ; but the world soon found it was 
true. 

Mr. Hunter retained the yard where the 
business was at present carried on. Mr. 
Henry Hunter found other premises to suit 
him : not far ofi" : a little more to the west. 
Considerably surprised were Mrs. Hunter and 
Mrs. Henry Hunter ; but the same plausible 
excuse was given to them ; and they were 
left in ignorance of the true cause. 

"Will you remain with me?" pointedly 
asked Mr. Hunter of Austin Clay. " I par- 
ticularly wish it." ■ 

" As you and Mr. Henry may decide, sir," 
was the reply given. " It is not for me to 
choose." 

" We could both do with you, I believe. I 
had better talk it over with him." 

" That will be the best plan, sir." 



A SEPARATION. 191 

"What do you part for?" abruptly inquired 
Dr. Bevary one day of tlie two brothers, 
coming into the counting-house and catching 
them together. 

Mr. Henry raised his eyebrows. Mr. 
Hunter spoke volubly. 

" The business is getting too large. It 
will be better divided." 

" Moonshine ! " cried the doctor, quietly. 
" That's what you have been cramming your 
wives with ; it won't do for me. When a 
concern gets unwieldy, a man takes a partner 
to help him on with it : you are separating. 
There's many a firm larger than yours. Do 
you remember the proverb of the bundle of 
sticks 1 " 

But neither Dr. Bevary nor anybody else 
got at a better reason than that for the 
measure. The dissolution of partnership 
took place ; it was duly gazetted and the old 
firm became two. Austin remained with Mr. 
Hunter, and he was the only living being 
who gave a guess, or who could give a guess, 
at the real cause of separation — the drawing 
out of that five thousand pounds. 



193 A LIFES SECEET. 

And yet — it was not the drawing out of 
that first five thousand pounds, that finally 
decided Mr. Henry Hunter to enforce the 
step, so much as the thought that other 
thousands might perhaps be follo\\T.ng it. 
He could not divest his mind of the fear. 



PART THE SECOND. 
CHAPTER I. 

A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 

For several years after tlie separation of 
Hunter and Hunter, tilings went on 
smootlily : at least there was no event 
sufficiently marked that we need linger to 
trace it. Each had a floiu'ishing business, 
though Mr. Hunter had some difficulty in 
staving off embarrassment in the financial 
department : a fact which was well known 
to Austin Clay, who was now confidential 
manager — head of all, under Mr. Hunter. 

He, Austin Clay, was getting towards 
thirty years of age. He enjoyed a hand- 
some salary, and was putting by money 
yearly. He still remained at Peter Quale's, 
though his position would have warranted 



194 A life's secret. 

a style of living far superior. Not that it 
could have brought him more respect : of 
that, he enjoyed a full share, l^oth from 
master and men. Clever, energetic, firm, 
and friendly, he was thoroughly fitted for 
his post — was liked and esteemed. But for 
him, Mr. Hunter's business might not have 
been what it was, and Mr. Hunter knew it. 
He was a broken-spirited man, little capable 
now of devoting energy to anything. The 
years, in their progress, had terribly altered 
James Hunter. 

A, hot evening in Daffodil's Delight ; and 
Daffodil's Delight Avas making it a busy one. 
Uninterrupted prosperity is sometimes 
nearly allied to danger : or, rather, danger 
may grow out of it. Prosperity begets in- 
dependence, and independence often begets 
assumption — very often, a selfish, wrong 
view of surrounding things. If any work- 
men had enjoyed of late years (it may be 
said) unlimited prosperity, they Avere those 
connected with the building trade. There- 
fore, being so flourishing, it struck some of 
their body, who in a degree gave laws to the 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 195 

rest, that the best tiling tliey could do was to 
make themselves more flomishinsf still. As 
a prehminary, they began to agitate for an 
increase of wages : this was to be accom- 
phshed by reducing the hours of labour, 
the proposition being to work nine hours 
per day instead of ten. They said nothing 
about relinquishing the wages of the extra 
hour : they would be paid for ten hours, and 
work nine. The proposition was first put 
by the men of a leading metropolitan firm 
to their principals, and, fading to obtain it, 
they threatened to strike. This it was that 
was just now agitating Daffodil's Delight. 
In the front room of one of the houses 
that abutted nearly on the gutter, and 
to which you must ascend by steps, there 
might be read in the window, inscribed on 
a piece of paper, the following notice : " The 
Misses Dunn's, Milhner and Dressmakers. 
Ladies own materiels made up." The com- 
position of the cifflclie was that of the two 
Miss Dunns jointly, who prided them- 
selves upon being elegant scholars. A 
twelvemonth's apprenticeship had initiated 

o 2 



196 A life's secret. 

them into the mysteries of dressmaking ; 
millinery had come to them, as Mark 
Tapley would say, spontaneous, or by dint 
of practice. They had set up for themselves 
in their father's house, and could boast of 
a fair share of the patronage of Dafiodil's 
Delight. Showy damsels were they, with 
good-humoured turned-up noses, and light 
hair ; much given to gadding and gossip- 
ing, and fonder of dressino^ themselves than 
of o-ettino; home the dresses of their cus- 
tomcrs. 

On the above evening, they sat in their 
room, an uj^per one, stitching away. A 
gown was in progress for Mrs. Quale, who 
often boasted that she could do any work 
in the world, save make her own gowns. 
It had been in progress for two weeks, and 
that lady had at length come up in a 
temper, as Miss Jemima Dunn expressed 
it, and had demanded it to be returned, 
done or undone. They, with much depre- 
cation, protested it should be home the 
first thincr in the mornins', and went to 
work. Four or five visitors, girls of their 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 197 

own age, were performing tlie part of 
lookers-on, and much laughter prevailed. 

"I say," cried out Martha White — a 
pleasant-looking girl, who had perched her- 
self aloft on the edge of a piece of furni- 
ture, which appeared to be a low chest of 
drawers by day, and turned itself into a 
bed at night — " Mary Baxendale was crying 
yesterday, because of the strike ; saying, it 
would be bad for all of us, if it came. 
Ain't she a soft ? " 

"Baxendale's again it, too," exclaimed 
Miss Eyan, Pat Eyan's eldest trouble. 
" Father says he don't think Baxendale '11 
go in for it at all." 

"Mary Baxendale's just one of them 
timid things as is afraid of their own 
shadders," cried Mary Ann Dunn. " If 
she saw a cow a-commg at the other end 
of the street, she'd turn tail and run. 
Jemimer, whatever are you at ? The 
sleeves is to be in plaits, not gathers." 

" She do look ill, though, does Mary 
Baxendale," said Jemima, after some atten- 
tion to the sleeve in hand. " It's my 



198 A LIFES SECEET. 

belief she'll never live to see Christmas ; 
she's going the way her mother went. 
Won't it be prime, when the men get ten 
hours' pay for nine homes' work ? I shall 
think about getting married then." 

"You must find somebody to have you 
first," quoth Grace Darby. " You have not 
got a sweetheart yet." 

Miss Jemima tossed her head. " I needn't 
to wait long for that. The chaps be as 
plentiful as- sprats in winter. All you have 
got to do is to pick and choose." 

" What's that ? " interrupted Mrs. Dunn, 
darting into the room, Avith her sharp 
tongue and her dirty fine cap. " What's 
that as you're talking about, miss ? " 

" We are a-talking of the strike," re- 
sponded Jemima, with a covert glance to 
the rest. " Martha White and Judy Kyan 
says the Baxendales won't go in for it." 

" Not go in for it 1 what idiots they must 
be ! " returned Mrs. Dunn, the attractive 
subject completely diverting her attention 
from Miss Jemima and her words. " Ain't 
nine hours a-day enough for the men to be 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 199 

at work ? I can tell the Baxendales wliat — 
when we have got the nine hours all 
straight and sure, we shall next demand 
eight. 'Taint free-Lorn Englishers as is 
going to be put upon. It'll be glorious 
times, girls, won't it ? We shall get a 
taste o' fowls and salmon, may be, for 
dinner then ! " 

" My father says he does not think the 
masters will come-to, if the men do strike," 
observed Grace Darby. 

"Of course they won't — till they are 
forced/' retorted Mrs. Dunn, in a spirit of 
satire. " But that's just what they are 
a-going to be. Don't you be a fool, Grace 
Darby!" 

Lotty Cheek rushed in, a girl with a 
tongue almost as voluble as Mrs. Dunn's, 
and rough hair, the colour of a tow-rope. 
"What d'ye think 1 " cried she, breath- 
lessly. " There's a-going to be a meeting of 
the men to-night in the big room of the 
Bricklayers' Arms. They are a-filing in 
now. I think it must be about the 
strike." 



200 A life's secret. 

"D'ye suppose it would be about any- 
thmg else ? " retorted Mrs. Dunn. "I'd 
like to be one of 'em ! I'd hold out for the 
day's work of eight hours, instead of nine, 
I would. So 'ud they, if they was men." 

Mrs. Dunn's speech was concluded to an 
empty room. All the girls had flown down 
into the street, leaving the parts of Mrs. 
Quale's gown in closer contact with the 
dusty floor than w^as altogether to their 
benefit. 

The agitation in the trade had hitherto 
been chiefly smouldering in an under- 
current : now, it was rising to the surface. 
Lotty Cheek's inference was right ; the 
meetino; of this evenino: had reference to the 
strike. It had been hastily arranged in the 
«lay ; w^as quite an informal sort of affair, 
and confined to the operatives of Mr. 
Hunter. 

Not in a workman's jacket, but in a 
brown coat dangling to his heels, with a 
slit down the back and ventilating holes for 
the elbows, first entered he who had been 
chiefly instrumental in calling the meeting. 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 201 

It was Mr. Samuel Shuck ; better known, 
you may remember, as Slippery Sam. 
Somehow, Sam and prosperity could not 
contrive to pull together in the same boat. 
He was one of those who hke to Hve on the 
fat of the land, but are too lazy to work for 
their share of it. And how Sam had con- 
trived to exist until now, and keep himself 
and his large family out of the workhouse, 
was a marvel to aU. In his fits of repentance, 
he would manage to get in again at one or 
other of the yards of the Messrs. Hunter ; 
but they were growing tired of him. 

The room at the Bricklayers' Arms was 
tolerably commodious, and Sam took up 
a conspicuous position in it. 

"Well," began Sam, when the company 
had assembled, and were furnished with 
pipes and pewter-pots, "you have heard 
that that firm won't accept the reduction 
in the hours of labour, so the men have 
determined on a strike. Now, I have got a 
question to put to you. Is there most 
power in one man, or in a few dozens of 
men?" > '^ 



20£ A life's secret. 

Some lauglicd, and said, " In the dozens." 

" Very good," glibly went on Sam, whose 
tongue was smoother than oil, and who 
was gifted with a sort of oratory and some 
learning when he chose to put it out. 
" Then, the measure I wish to urge upon 
you is, make common cause with those 
men ; we are not all obliged to strike at 
the same time ; it will be better not ; but 
by degrees. Let every firm in London 
strike, each at its appointed time," he con- 
tinued, raising his voice to vehemence. 
" We must stand up for ourselves ; for our 
rights ; for our wives and children. By 
making common cause together, we shall 
bowl out the masters, and bring them to 
terms." 

" Hooroar ! " put in Pat Ryan. 

" Hooroar I " echoed a few more. 

An aged man, Abel White's father, usually 
called old White, who was past work, nnd 
had a seat at his son's chimney corner, 
leaned forward and spoke, his voice tre- 
mulous, but distinct. " Samuel Shuck, did 
you ever know strikes do any good, either 



A MEETING OF THE WOEKMEN. 203 

to tlie men or the masters ? Friends," 
lie added, turuiiig liis venerable head 
around, " I am in my eightieth year ; and 
I picked up some experience while them 
eighty years was passing. Strikes have 
ruined some masters, in means ; but they 
have ruined men wholesale, in means, in 
body, and in soul." 

"Hold there!" cried Sam Shuck, who 
had not brooked the interruption patiently. 
"Just tell us, old White, before you go 
on, whether coercion answers for British 
workmen? " 

" It does not," replied the old man, lifting 
his quiet voice to firmness. "But per- 
haps you wiU tell me in your turn, Sam 
Shuck, whether it's likely to answer for 
masters ? " 

"It has answered for them," retm^ned 
Sam, in a tone of irony. " I have heard of 
back strikes, where the masters were coerced 
and coerced, till the men got all they stood 
out for." 

"And so brought down ruin on their 
own heads," returned the old man, shaking 



204 A life's secret. 

liis. " Did you ever liear of a lock-out, 
Shuck r' 

"Ay, ay," interposed quiet, respectable 
Robert Darby. " Did you ever hear of that. 
Slippery Sam 1 " 

Slippery Sam growled. " Let the masters 
lock-out if they dare ! Let 'em. The men 
would hold out to the death." 

" And death it will be, with some of ug; 
if the strike comes, and lasts. I came down 
here to-night, on my son's arm, just for 
your good, my friends, not for mine. At 
your age, I thought as some of you do ; but 
I have learnt experience now. I can't 
last long, any way ; and it's little matter 
to me whether famine from a strike be my 
end, or " 

" Famine ! " derisively retorted Slippery 
Sam. 

" Yes, famine," was the quiet answer. 
" Strikes never yet brought nothing but 
misery in the end. Let me urge upon you 
all not to be led away. My voice is but a 
feeble one ; but I think the Lord is some- 
imes pleased to show out things clearly to 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 205 

the aged, almost as with a gift of prophecy ; 
and I could only come and beseech you to 
keep upon the straight-forrard path. Don't 
have anything to do with a strike ; keep it 
away from you at arm's length, as you 
would keep away the evil one." 

"What's the good of listening to him ? " 
cried Slippery Sam, in anger. " He is in 
l«is dotage." 

" Will you listen to me, then ? " spoke up 
Peter Quale ; " I am not in mine. I didn't 
intend to come here, as may be guessed ; 
but when -I found so many of you bending 
your steps this way to listen to Slippery 
Sam, I thought it time to change my mind, 
and come and tell you what / thought of 
strikes." 

" You ! " rudely replied Sli23pery Sam. 
" A fellow like you, always in full work, 
earning the biggest wages, is sure not to 
favour strikes. You can't be much better 
off than you are." 

" That admission of yours is worth some- 
thing. Slippery Sam, if there's any here have 
got the sense to see it," nodded Peter 



200 A life's secret. 

Quale. " Good workmen, on full Avages, 
don't favour strikes. I have rose up to 
what I am by sticking to my work patiently, 
and getting on step by step, It's open to 
every living man to get on as I have done, 
if he have got skill and pluck to Avork. 
But if I had done as you do, Sam, gone in 
for labour one day and for play two, and 
for drinking, and strikes, and rebellion, 
because money, which I was too lazy to 
work for, didn't drop from the skies into 
my hands, then I should just have been 
where you be." 

" Is it right to keep a man grinding and 
sweating his life out for ten hours a-day ? " 
retorted Sam. " The masters would -be as 
well off if we worked nine, and the surplus 
men would find employment." 

" It isn't much of your life that you 
sweat out, Sam Shuck," rejoined Peter Quale, 
with a cough that especially provoked his 
antaojonist. " And, as to the masters being 
as well off, you had better ask them about 
that. Perhaps they'd tell you that to pay 
ten hours' wages for nine hours' work would 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 207 

be the hour's wag-e dead loss to then- 
pockets," 

" Are you rascal enough to go in for the 
masters ? " demanded Sam, in a fiery heat. 
" Who'd do that, but a traitor ? " 

"I go in for myself, Sam," equably 
responded Peter Quale. " I know on which 
side my bread's buttered. No skilful work- 
men, possessed of prudent thought and 
judgment, ever yet went blindfold into a 
strike. At least, not many such." 

Op rose Eobert Darby. "I'd just say 
a word, if I can get my meaning out, but 
I'm not cute with the tongue. It seems to 
me, mates, that it would be a great boon if 
we could obtain the granting of the nine 
hours' movement ; and perhaps in the end 
it would not affect the masters, for they'd 
get it out of the public. I'd agitate for this 
in a peaceful way, in the shape of reason 
and argument, and do my best in that way 
to get it. But I'd not like, as Peter 
Quale says, .to plunge blindfold into a 
strike." 

" I look at it in this light, Darby," said 



2u8 . A life's secret. 

Peter Quale, " and it seems to me it's tlie 
only light as '11 answer to look at it in. 
Tilings in this world are estimated by com- 
parison. There ain't nothing large nor 
small in itself. I may say, this chair's 
big : well, so it is, if you match it by that 
there bit of a stool in the chimbley corner ; 
but it's very small if you put it by the side 
of a omnibus, or of one of the sheds in our 
yard. Now, if you compare our wages with 
those of workmen in most other trades, 
they are large. Look at a farm labourer, 
poor fellow, with his ten shillings (more or 
less) a-week, hardly keeping body and 
soul together. Look at what a man earns 
in the malting districts in the country ; 
fifteen shillings and his beer, is reckoned 
good wages. Look at a policeman, with 
his pound a-week. Look at a postman. 
Look at " 

" Look at ourselves," intemperately in- 
terrupted Jim Dunn. " What's other folks 
to us ? We work hard, and we ought to 
be paid according." 

" So I think we are,'' said Peter Quale. 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 209 

" Thirty-tliree shillings is not bad wages, 
and it is only a delusion to say it is. 
Neither is ten hours a day an unfair or 
oppressive time to work. I'd be as glad 
as anybody to have the hour took off, 
if it could be done pleasantly ; but I am not 
going to put myself out of work and into 
trouble to stand out for it. It's a thing that 
I am convinced the masters never will give ; 
and if Pollock's men strike for it, they'll do 
it against their own interests " 

Hisses and murmurs of disapprobation 
from various parts of the room interrupted 
Peter Quale. 

" You'd better wait and understand, afore 
you begin to hiss," phlegmatically recom- 
mended Peter Quale, when the noise had 
subsided. " I say it will be against their 
interests to strike, because, I think, if they 
stop on strike for twelve months, they'll be 
no nearer getting their end. I may be 
wrong, but that's my opinion. There's 
always two sides to a question — our own, 
and the opposite one ; and the great fault 
in most folks is, that they look only at their 



210 A life's secret. 

own side, and it causes tlieni to see things 
in a partial view. I liave looked as fair as 
I can at oiir own side, trying to put away 
my bias for it \ and I have put myself in 
thought on the masters' side, asking my- 
self, what would / do, were I one of them. 
Thus I have tried to judge between them 
and us, and the conclusion I have drawed 
is, that they won't give in." 

" The masters have been brought to grant 
demands more unreasonable than this," re- 
joined Sam Shuck. " If you know anything 
about back strikes, you must know that,. 
Quale." 

"And that's one of the reasons why I 
argue they won't grant this," said Peter. 
" If they go on granting and granting, they 
may get asking themselves where the de- 
mands '11 stop." 

"Let us go back to 1833," spoke up old 
Wliite again, and the man's ao;e and vene- 
rable aspect caused him to be listened to 
with respect. " I was then working in 
Manchester, and belonged to the Trades' 
Union: a powerful Union as ever was 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 211 

formed. In our strengtli, we thought we 
should like a thing or two altered, and we 
made a formal demand upon the master 
builders, requiring them to discontinue the 
erection of buildino-s on sub-contracts. The 
masters fell in with it. You'll understand, 
friends," he broke off to say, " that, looking 
at things now, and looking at 'em then, is 
just as if I saw 'em in two opposite aspects. 
Next, we gave out a set of various rules for 
the masters, and required them to abide by 
such — about the making of the wages equal ; 
the number of apprentices they should take ; 
the machinery they should or should not 
use ; and other things. Well, the masters 
gave us that also, and it put us all cock-a- 
hoop, and we went on to dictate to 'em more 
and more. If they — the masters — broke 
any of our rules, we levied fines on 'em, and 
made 'em pay up ; we ordered them before 
us at our meetings, found fault with 'em, 
commanded 'em to obey us, to take on such 
men as we pointed out, and to turn off 
others ; in short, forced 'em to do as we 
chose. People might have thought that we 

p 2 



212 A life's secret. 

was the masters and tliey tlie operatives. 
Pretty well that, wasn't it ? " 

The room nodded acquiescence. Slippery 
Sam snapped his fingers in delight. 

" The worst was, it did not last," resumed 
the old man. " Like too many other folks 
emboldened with success, we wasn't content 
to let well alone, but went on a bit too far. 
The masters took up their own defence at 
last ; and the wonder to me now, looking 
l^ack, is, that they didn't do it before. They 
formed themselves into a Union, and passed 
a resolve to employ no man unless he 
signed a pledge not to belong to a 
Trades' Union. Then we all turned out. 
Six months the strike was on, and the 
buildings was at a standstill, and us out of 
work." 

" AVere wages bad at that time ?" inquired 
Kobert Darby. 

" No. The good workmen among us had 
been earning in the summer thirty-five shil- 
lings a week ; and the bricklayers had just 
had a rise of three shillings. We was just 
fools : that's my opinion of it now. Awful 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 213 

misery we were reduced to. Every stick we 
had, went to the pawn shop ; our wives was 
skin and bone, our children was in rags ; 
and some of us just laid our heads down on 
the stones, clammed to death." 

" What was tlie trade in other places 
about, that it didn't help you V indignantly 
demanded Sam Shuck. 

" They did help us. Money to the tune 
of eighteen thousand pounds came to us ; 
but we was a large body — many mouths to 
feed, and the strike was prolonged. We had 
to come-to at last, for the masters wouldn't ; 
and we voted our combination a nuisance, 
and went humbly to 'em, like dogs with 
their tails between their legs, and craved to 
be took on again upon their own terms. But 
we couldn't get took back ; not all of us : 
the masters had learnt a lesson. They had 
got machinery to work, and had collected 
workmen from other parts, so that we was 
not wanted. And that's all the good the 
strike brought to us I I came away on the 
tramp with my family, and got work in 
London after a deal of struggle and priva- 



-214 A life's secret. 

tion : and I made a vow never to belong 

o 

willingly to a strike again." 

" Do you see wlicre tlie fault lay in that 
pase ? — the blame ? — the whole gist of the 
evil ? " 

The question came from a gentleman who 
had entered the room as old. White was 
speaking. The mg.n would have risen to 
salute him, but he signed to them to be still 
and cause no interruption- — a tall, noble 
man, with calm, self-reliant countenance. 

" It lay with the masters," he resumed, 
nobody replying to him. " Had those Man- 
chester masters resisted the first demand of 
their men — a demand made in the insolence 
of power, not in need — and allowed them 
fully to understand that they Avere, and 
would be, masters, we should, I believe, have 
heard less of strikes since, than we have 
done. I never think of those Manchester 
massjers but my blood boils. When a prin- 
cipal suflers himself to be dictated to by his 
men, he. is, no longer a master, or worthy of 
the name;*'- 

"Had you been one of them, and not 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 215 

complied, you might have come to ruin, sir," 
cried Eobert Darby. " There's a deal to be 
said on both sides." 

"Kuin!" was the answer. "I never 
would have conceded an inch, though I 
had known that I must end my days m 
the workhouse through not doino; it." 

" Of course, sir, you'd stand up for the 
masters, being hand in glove with 'em, and 
likely to be a master yourself," grumbled 
Sam Shuck, a touch of irony in his tone. 

" I should stand up for whichever side I 
deemed in the right, whether it was the 
masters' or the men's," was the emphatic 
answer. "Is it well— is it in accordance 
with the fitness of things, that a master 
should be under the control of his men ? 
Come ! I ask it of your common sense." 

"No." It was readily acknowledged. 

" Those Manchester masters and those 
Manchester operatives were upon a par as 
regards shame and blame." 

" Sir ! Shame and blame ? " 

" They were upon a par as regards shame 
and blame," was the decisive repetition ; 



216 . A life's secret. 

"and I make no doubt that botli equally 
deemed themselves to have been so, when 
they found their senses. The masters' came 
to them : the men were brought to thems." 

"You speak strongly, sir." 

" Because I feel strongly. When I become 
a master, 1 shall, if I know anything of my- 
self, have my men's interest at heart ; but 
none of them shall ever presume to dictate 
to me. If a master cannot exercise his own 
authority in firm self-reliance, let him give 
up business." 

" Have masters a right to oppress us, sir ? 
— to grind us down ? — to work us into our 
cofiins ?" cried Sam Shuck. 

The gentleman raised his eyebrows, and a 
half smile crossed his lips. " Since when 
have you been oppressed, and ground down 
into your coffins ?" 

Some of the men laughed — at Sam's oily 
tongue. 

" If you are — if you have any complaint 
of that sort to make, let me hear it now, and 
I wiU convey it to Mr. Hunter. He is ever 
ready, you know, to What do you say, 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 217 

Shuck ? The nine hours' concession is all 
you want ? If you can get the masters to 
give you ten hours' pay for nine hours' 
work, so much the better for you. / would 
not : but it is no affair of mine. To be paid 
what you honestly earn, be it five pounds 
per week or be it one, is only justice ; but 
to be paid for what you don't earn, is the 
opposite thing. I think, too, that the ecjual- 
ization of wages is a mistaken system, quite 
wrong in principle : one which can bring 
only discontent in the long run. Let me 
repeat that with emphasis— the equalization 
of wages, should it ever take place, can bring 
only discontent in the long run." 

There Avas a pause. No one spoke, and 
the speaker resumed — 

"I conclude you have met here to dis- 
cuss tliis agitation at the Messrs. Pol- 
locks?" 

" PoUocks' men are a-going to strike," said 
Slippery Sam. 

" Oh, they are, are they ? " returned the 
gentleman, some mockery in his tone. "I 
hope they may find it to their benefit. I 



218 A life's secret. 

don't know wliat the Messrs. Pollocks may- 
do in tlie matter : but I know what I 
should." 

" You'd hold out to the last against the 
men ? " 

" I should ; to the last and the last : were 
it for ten years to come. Force a measure 
upon me ! coerce nw /" he reiterated, draw- 
ing his fine form to its full height, while the 
red flush mantled in his cheeks. " No, my 
men, I am not made of that yielding stuff. 
Only let me be persuaded that my judgment 
is right, and no body of men on earth should 
force me to act against it." 

The speaker was Austin Clay, as I daresay 
you have abeady guessed. He had not gone 
to the meeting to interrupt it or to take part 
in it, but in search of Peter Quale. Hearing 
fi'om Mrs. Quale that her husband was at the 
Bricklayers' Arms — a rare occurrence, for 
Peter was not one who favoured public- 
houses — Austin went thither in search of 
him, and so found himself in the midst of 
the meeting. His business with Peter re- 
lated to certain orders he required to give 



A MEETING OF THE WORKMEN. 219 

for tlie early morning. Once there, liowevcr, 
the temptation to have his say was too great 
to be resisted. That over, he went out, 
making a sign to the man to follow him. 

" What are those men about to rush into, 
Quale ? " he demanded, when his own matter 
was over. 

"Ah, what indeed?" returned the man. 
"If they do get led into a strike, they'll 
repent it, some of them." 

"You are not one of the malcontents, 
then ? " 

" I ? " retorted Peter, utter scorn in his 
tone. " No, sir. There's a proverb which I 
learnt years ago from an old book as was 
lent me, and I've not forgotten it, sir — ' Let 
weU alone.' But you must not think all 
the men you saw sitting there be discon- 
tented agitators, Mr. Clay. It's only Shuck 
and a few of that stamp. The rest l3e as 
steady and cautious as I am." 

" If they don't get led away," repHed 
Austin Clay, and his voice betrayed a 
dubious tone. "Slippery Sam, in spite of 
Jiis loose qualifications, is a ringleader more 



220 A life's secret. 

persuasive than prudent. Hark ! he is at 

it again, hammer and tongs. Are you going 

back to them ? " 

" No, sir. I shall go home now." 

" We will walk together, then," observed 

Austin. " Afterwards I am going on to J\lr. 

Hunter's." * 

* "It need scarcely be remarked, that Sam Slmck and Ins 
followers represent only the ignorant and nnprincipled section 
of those who engage in strikes. Working men are perfectly 
right in combining to seek the best terms they can get, both as 
to wages and time ; provided there be no interference with the 
liberty either of masters or fellow-workmen. — Ed. L. H., 
February, 1862." 



CHAPTER IT. 

CALLED TO KETTEEFORD. 

Austin Clat was not mistaken. Rid of 
Peter Quale, wlio was a worse enemy of 
Sam's schemes than even old White, Sam 
had it nearly his own way, and went at it 
"hammer and tongs." He pom:ed his elo- 
quent words into the men's ears — and Sam, 
as you have heard, really did possess the 
gift of eloquence : of a rough and rude sort : 
but that tells well mtli the class, now 
gathered round him. He brought forth 
argument upon argument, fallacious as they 
were plausible ; he told the men it depended 
upon them, whether the boon they were 
standing out for should be accorded, not 
upon the masters. Not that Sam called it a 
boon ; he spoke of it as a right. Let them 
only be firm and true to themselves, he said, 



233 A life's seceet. 

and the masters must give in : tliere was no 
help for it, they would have no other re- 
source. Sam finally concluded by demand- 
ing, with fierce looks all round, whether they 
were men, or whether they were slaves, and 
the men answered, with a cheer and a shout, 
that Britons never should be slaves ; and the 
meeting broke up in excitement and glorious 
spirits, and went home elated, some with the 
anticipation of the fine time that was davvn- 
ino- for them, others with havino; consumed 
a little too much half-and-half. 

Slippery Sam reeled away to his home. 
A dozen or so attended him, listening to his 
oratory, which was continued still : though 
not exactly to the gratification of Daffodil's 
Delight, who were hushing their unruly 
babies to sleep, or striving to get to sleep 
themselves. Much Sam cared Avliom he 
disturbed ! He went along, flinging his arms 
and his words at random — inflammatory 
words, carrying poisoned shafts that told. 
If somebody came down upon you and upon 
me, telling us that, with a little exertion on 
our part, we should inevitably drop into a 



CALLED TO KETTERFORD. 223 

thousand a year, and showing plausible cause 
for the same, should we turn ' a deaf ear ? 
The men shook hands individually with 
Slippery Sam, and left him propped against 
his o^^^l door ; for Sam, with all deference 
be it spoken, was a little overcome himself — 
with the talking, of course. 

Sam's better half greeted him with a shrill 
tongue : she and Mrs. Dunn might be paired 
in that respect : and Sam's children, some in 
the bed in the corner, some sitting up, greeted 
him ^^T.th a shrill cry also, clamom^ing for a 
very common-place article, indeed — "some 
hreacl!" Sam's family seemed inconveniently 
to increase ; for the less there appeared to be 
to welcome them with, the surer and faster 
they arrived. Thirteen, Sam could number 
now ; but several of the elder ones were out 
in the world " doino; for themselves" — 
getting on, or starving, as it might hap- 
pen to be. 

" You old sot ! you have been at that 
drinking-can again," were Mrs. Sam's words 
of salutation ; and I wish I could soften 
them dowTi to refinement for polite ears ; 



324 A life's secret. 

but if you are to have tlie truth, you must 
take them as they were spoken. 

" Drinking-can ! " echoed Sam, who was 
in too high glee to lose his temper, "never 
mind the drinking-can, missis : my fortian's 
made. I drawed together that meeting, as I 
telled ye I should," he added, discarding his 
scholarly eloquence for the familiar home 
phraseology, "and they come to it, every 
man jack on 'em, save thin-skinned Baxen- 
dale up-stairs. Never was such a full 
meetino; knowed in Daffodil's Delight." 

" Who cares for the meeting ! " irascibly 
responded Mrs. Sam. " What we wants, is 
some'at to fill our insides with. Don't come 
bothering home here about a meeting, when 
the children be a starving. If you'd work 
more and talk less, it 'ud become ye better." 

" I got the ear of the meeting," said Sam, 
braving the reproof with a provoking wink. 
'■' A despicable set our men is, at Hunter's, a 
humdrummino" on like slaves for ever, takins; 
their paltry wages and making no stir. But 
I've put the brand among 'em at last, and 
sent 'em home all on fire, to dream of short 



CALLED TO KETTERFORD. 225 

work and good pay. Quale, lie come, and 
put in his spoke again' it ; and that wretched 
old skeleton of a White, what's been cheating 
the grave this ten year, he come, and put in 
his ; and Mr. Austin Clay, he must thrust 
his nose among us, and talk treason to the 
men : but I think my tongue have circum- 
vented the lot. If it haven't, my name's not 
Sam Shuck." 

" If you and your circumventions and your 
tongue was aU at the bottom of the Thames, 
'twouldn't be no loss, for all the good they 
does above it," sobbed Mrs. Shuck, whose 
anger generally ended in tears. " Here's me 
and the children a clemming for want o' 
bread, and you can waste your time over a 
idle good-for-nothing meeting. Ain't you 
ashamed, not to work as other men do V 

" Bread ! " loftily returned Sam, with the 
air of a king, " 'tisn't bread I shall soon be 
furnishing for you and the children : it's 
mutton chops. My fortian's made, I say." 

" Yah ! " retorted Mrs. Sam. " It have 
Ibeen made forty times in the last ten year, 
ito listen to you. What good has ever come 



226 A life's secret. 

of the boast ? I'd shut up my mouth if I 
couldn't talk sense." 

Sam nodded his head oracularly, and 
entered upon an explanation. But for the 
fact of his being; a little " overcome" — what- 
ever may have been its cause — he would 
have been more guarded. " I've had over- 
tures," he said, bending forward his head 
and lowerino; his voice, " and them overtures, 
which I accejDted, will be the making of you 
and of me. Work ! " he exclaimed, throw- 
ing his arms gracefully from him with a 
repelling gesture, " I've done with work 
now ; I'm superior to it ; I'm exalted far 
above that lowerinoj sort of toil. The leaders 
among the London Trade Union have recog- 
nised eloquence, ma'am, let me tell you ; 
and they've made me one of their picked 
body — appointed me agitator to the firms of 
Hunter. 'You get the meeting together, 
and prime 'em with the best of your elo- 
quence, and excite 'em to recognise and 
agitate for their own rights, and you shaU 
have your appointment, and a good round 
weekly salary.' Well, Mrs. S., I did it. I 



I 



CALLED TO KETTERFORD. 227 

got the men together, and I have primed 
'em, and some of 'em's a busting to go oft ; 
and all I've got to do from henceforth is to 
keep 'em up to the mark, by means of that 
tongue which you are so fond of disparaging, 
and to live like a gentleman. There's a 
trifling^ instalment of the first week's mo- 

O 

ney. 

Sam threw a sovereim on the table. Mrs. 
Shuck, with a grunt of disparagement still, 
darted forward to seize upon it through her 
tears. The children, uttering a wild shriek 
of wonder, delight, and disbelief, born of 
incipient famine, darted forward to seize it 
too. Sam burst into a fit of laughter, threw 
himself back to indulo-e it, and not beinoj 
just then over steady on his legs, lost his 
equilibrium, and toppled over the fender into 
the ashes. 

Leaving Mrs. Shuck to pick him up, or to 
leave him there — which latter neg-ative course 
was the one she would probably take — let us 
return to Austin Clay. 

At Peter Quale's gate he was standing a 
moment to speak to the man before proceed- 

Q 2 



228 A life's secret. 

big onwards, when Mrs. Quale came running 
down the garden path. 

" I was coming in search of you, sir," she 
said to Austin Clay. " This has just been 
brought, and the man made me sign my 
name to a paper." 

Austin took what she held out to him — a 
telegraphic despatch. He opened it ; read 
it ; then, in the prompt, decisive manner usual 
with him, requested Mrs. Quale to put him 
up a change of things in his portmanteau, 
which he would return for ; and walked 
away with a rapid step. 

" Whatever news is it that he has had ? " 
cried Mrs. Quale, as she stood with her hus- 
band, looking after him. " Where can he 
have been summoned to ? " 

"Taint no business of ours," retorted 
Peter ; "if it had been, he'd have enlight- 
ened us. Did you ever hear of that offer 
that's always pending ? — Five hundred a- 
year to anybody as 11 undertake to mind 
his own business, and leave other folks's 
alone." 

Austin was on his way to Mr. Hunter's. 



CALLED TO KETTERFOED. 229 

A very frequent evening visitor there now, 
was lie. But this evening lie had an osten- 
sible motive for going ; a boon to crave. 
That alone may have made his footsteps 
fleet. 

In the soft twilio;ht of the summer even- 
mg, in the room of their o^vn house that 
opened to the conservatory, sat Florence 
Hunter — no longer the impulsive, charming, 
and somewhat troublesome child, but the 
young and lovely woman. Of middle height 
and graceful form, her face was one of great 
sweetness ; the earnest, truthful spirit, the 
pure innocence, which had made its charm 
in youth, made it now : to look on Florence 
Hunter, was to love her. 

She appeared to be in deep thought, her 
cheek resting on her hand, and her eyes 
fixed on vacancy. Some movement in the 
house aroused her, and she arose, shook her 
head, as if she would shake care away, and 
bent over a rare plant in the room's large 
opening, lightly touching the leaves. 

" I fear that mamma is right, and I am 
Avrong, pretty plant ! " she murmured. " I 



230 A life's secret. 

fear that you will die. Is it that this Lon- 
don, with its heavy atmosphere " 

The knock of a visitor at the hall door 
resounded through the house. Did Florence 
knoiv the knock, that her voice should falter, 
and the soft pink in her cheeks should deepen 
to a glowing crimson ? The room door 
opened, and a servant announced Mr. 
Clay. 

In that early railway journey when they 
first met, Florence had taken a predilection 
for Austin Clay. " I like him so much 1 " 
had been her gratuitous announcement to 
her uncle Henry. The liking had ripened 
into an attachment, firm and lasting — a 
child's attachment : but Florence grew into a 
woman, and it could not remain such. 
Thrown much together, the feeling had 
changed, and love mutually arose : they fell 
into it unconsciously. Was it quite prudent 
of Mr. Hunter to sanction, nay, to court the 
frequent presence at his house of Austin 
Clay ? Did he overlook the obvious fact, that 
he was one who possessed attractions, both 
of mind and person, and that Florence was 



CALLED TO KETTERFORD. 231 

now a woman grown ? Or did Mr. Hunter 
deem, that the social barrier, which he 
might assume existed between his daughter 
and his dependent, would effectually pre- 
vent all approach of danger ? Mr. Hunter 
must himself account for the negligence : 
no one else can do it. It was certain that 
he did have Austin very much at his house, 
but it was equally certain that he never cast 
a thought to the possibility that his daughter 
mio;ht be learnino' to love him. 

The strange secret, whatever it may have 
been, attaching to Mr. Hunter, had shattered 
his health to that extent that for days toge- 
ther he would be unequal to go abroad or 
to attend to business. Then Austin, who 
acted as principal in the absence of Mr. 
Hunter, would arrive at the house when the 
day was over, to report progress, and take 
orders for the next. day. Or, rather, consult 
with him what the orders should be ; for in 
energy, in capability, Austin was now the 
master spirit, and Mr. Hunter bent to it. 
That over, he passed the rest of the evening 
in the society of Florence, conversing with 



233 A life's secret. 

her freely, confidentially ; on literature, art, 
the news of the day ; on topics of home 
interest ; listening to her music, listening to 
her low voice, as she sang her songs ; guiding 
her pencil. There they would be. He with 
his ready eloquence, his fund of information, 
his attractive manners, and his fine form, 
handsome in its height and strength ; she 
mth her sweet fascinations, her gentle love- 
liness. What could be the result ? But, as 
is almost invariably the case, the last person 
to give a suspicion to it was he who posi- 
tively looked on, and might have seen all — 
Mr. Hunter. Life, in the presence of the 
other, had become sweet to each as a sum- 
mer's dream — a dream that had stolen over 
them ere they knew what it meant. But 
consciousness came with time. 

Very conscious of it were they both as he 
entered this evening. Austin took her hand 
in greeting : a hand always tremulous now 
in his. She bent again over the plant she 
was tending, her eyelids and her damask 
cheeks drooping. 

" You are alone, Florence \" 



CALLED TO KETTERFOED 23a 

" Just now. Mamma is very poorly this 
evening, and keeps lier room. PajDa was 
here a few minutes ag-o." 

He released her hand, and stood looking 
at her, as she played with the petals of the 
flower. Not a word had Austin spoken of 
his love ; not a word was he sure that he 
might speak. If he partially divined that it 
might be acceptable to her, he did not beheve 
it- would be to Mr. Hunter. 

" The plant looks sickly," he observed. 

" Yes. It is one that thrives in cold and 
wind. It came from Scotland. Mamma 
feared this close London atmosphere would 
not suit it ; but I said it looked so hardy, it 
would be sure to do Avell. Rather than it 
should die, I would send it back to its bleak 
home." 

" In tears, Florence ! For the sake of a 
plant ! " 

"Not for that," she answered, twinkling 
the moisture from her eyelashes, as she raised 
them to his with a brave smile. " I was 
thinking of mamma ; she appears to be 
fading rapidly, like the plant." 



234 A life's secret. 

" She may grow stronger when the heat 
of summer shall have passed." 

Florence slightly shook her head, as if she 
could not share in the suggested hope. 
" Mamma herself does not seem to think she 
shall, Austin. She has dropped ominous 
words more than once latterly. This after- 
noon I showed her the plant, that it was 
drooping. 'Ay, my dear,' she remarked, 'it 
is like me — on the wane.' And I think ray 
uncle Bevary's opinion has become unfavour- 
able." 

It was a matter on which Austin could 
not urge hope, though, for the sake of tran- 
quillizing Florence, he might suggest it, for 
he believed that Mrs. Hunter was fading 
rapidly. All these years she seemed to have 
been getting thinner and weaker ; it was 
some malady connected with the spine, 
causing her at times great pain. Austin 
changed the subject. 

" I hope Mr. Hunter will soon be in, 
Florence. I am come to ask for leave of 
absence." 

" Papa is not out ; he is sitting with 



CALLED TO KETTERFORD. 235 

mamma. That is another reason why I fear 
danger for her. I think papa sees it ; he is 
so solicitous for her comfort, so anxious to 
be with her, as if he would guard her from 
surprise or agitating topics. He will not 
suffer a visitor to enter at hazard ; he will 
not let a note be given her, until he has 
first seen it." 

" But he has long been thus anxious," 
replied Austin, who was aware that what 
she spoke of had lasted for years. 

" I know. But still, latterly — however, 
I must hope against hope," broke off Flo- 
rence. " I think I do : hope is certainly a 
very strong ingredient in my nature, for I 
cannot realise the parting with my dear 
mother. Did you say you have come for 
leave of absence ? Where is it that you 
wish to go ? " 

" I have had a telegraphic despatch from 
Ketterford," he replied, taldng it from his 
pocket. " My good old friend, Mrs. Thorni- 
mett, is dying, and I must hasten thither 
with all speed." 

" Oh ! " uttered Florence, almost reproach- 



236 A life's secret. 

fully. " And you are wasting the time with 
me!" 

" Not so. The first train that goes there 
does not start for an hour yet, and I can 
get to Paddington in half of one. The news 
has grieved me much. The last time I was 
at Ketterford — you may remember it — Mrs. 
Thornimett was so very well, exhibiting no 
symptoms whatever of decay." 

" I remember it," answered Florence. " It 
is two years ago. You stayed a whole fort- 
night with her." 

" And had a battle with her to get away 
then," said Austin, smiling with the remi- 
niscence, or with Florence's word "whole" 
— a suggestive word, spoken in that sense. 
" She wished me to remain lono-er. I wonder 
what illness can have stricken her ? It must 
have been sudden." 

" What is the relationship between you ? " 

"A distant one. She and my mother 
were second cousins. If I- — - — " 

Austin was stopped by the entrance of 
Mr. Hunter. So changed, so bent and 
bowed, since you, reader, last saw him ! The 



CALLED TO KETTERFORD. 2-37 

stout upright figure liad grown tliin and 
stooping, the fine dark hair was grey, the 
once calm, self-reliant face was worn and 
haggard. Nor was that all ; there was a 
constant restlessness in his manner and in 
the turn of his eye, giving a spectator the 
idea that he lived in a state of ever-present, 
perpetual fear. 

Austin put the telegraphic message in his 
hand. " It is an inconvenient time, I know, 
sir, for me to be away, busy as we are, and 
with this agitation rising amongst the meu ; 
but I cannot help myself. I will return as 
soon as it is possible." 

Mr. Hunter did not hear the words. His 
eyes had fallen on the word " Ketterford," 
in the despatch, and that seemed to scare 
away his senses. His hands shook as he 
held the paper, and for a few moments he 
appeared incapable of collected thought, of 
understanding anything, Austin explained 
again. 

" Oh, yes, yes, it is only — it is Mrs. Thor- 
nimett who is ill, and wants you — I com- 
prehend now." He spoke in an incoherent 



'238 A LIFE S SECRET. 

manner, and with a sigli of the most intense 
relief. " I — I — saw the word ' dying,' and 
it startled me," he proceeded, as if anxious 
to account for his agitation. " You can go, 
Austin ; you must go. Remain a few days 
there — a week, if you find it necessary." 

" Thank you, sir. I will say farewell now, 
then." 

He shook hands with Mr. Hunter, turned 
to Florence, and took hers. "Remember 
me to Mrs. Hunter," he said in a low tone, 
which, in spite of himself, betrayed its own 
tenderness, " and tell her I hope to find her 
better on my return." 

A few paces from the house, as he went 
out, Austin encountered Dr. Be vary, " Is 
she much worse ? " he exclaimed to Austin, 
in a hasty tone. 

" Is who much worse, doctor ? " 

" Mrs. Hunter. I have just had a mes- 
sage from her." 

" Not very much, I fancy. Florence said 
her mamma was poorly this evening. I am 
ofi" to Ketterford, doctor, for a few days." 

" To Ketterford ! " replied Dr. Bevary, 



CALLED TO KETTERFORD. 239 

with an emphasis that showed the news had 
startled him. "What are you going there 
for ? For— for Mr. Hunter ? " 

" For myself," said Austin. " A good old 
friend is ill — dying, the message says — and 
has telegraphed for me." 

The physician looked at him searchingly. 
" Do you speak of Miss Gwinn ? " 

" I should not call her a friend," replied 
Austin. " I allude to Mrs. Thornimett." 

"A pleasant journey to you, then. And, 
Clay ! steer clear of those Gwinns ; they 
would bring you no good." 

It was in the dawn of the early morning 
that Austin entered Ketterford. He did not 
let the grass grow under his feet between 
the railway terminus and Mrs. Thornimett's ; 
though he was somewhat dubious about dis- 
turbing the house. If she was really " dying," 
it might be well that he should do so ; if 
only suffering from a severe illness, it might 
not be expected of him ; and the wording of 
the message had been ambiguous, leaving it 
an open question. As he drew within ^dew 
of the house, however, it exhibited signs of 



240 A LIFES SECRET. 

bustle ; lights, not yet put out in the dawn, 
might be discerned throuejh some of the 
curtained windows, and a woman, having 
much the appearance of a nurse, was coming 
out at the door, halting on the threshold a 
moment to hold converse with one within. 

" Can you tell me how Mrs. Thornimett 
is ? " inquired Austin, addressing himself to 
her. 

The woman shook her head. " She is 
gone, sir. Not more than an hour ago." 

Sarah, the old servant whom we have seen 
before at Mrs. Thornimett's, came forward, 
weeping. " Oh, Mr. Austin ! oh, sir ; why 
could not you get here sooner ? " 

" How could I, Sarah ? " was his reply. 
" I received the message only last evening, 
and came off by the first train that started." 

" I'd have took a engine to myself, and 
rode upon its chimbley, but what I'd have 
sot here in time," retorted Sarah. " Twice 
in the very last half hour of her life, she 
asked after you. ' Isn't Austin come ? ' 
' Isn't he yet come ? ' My dear old mis- 
tress ! " ■ 



CALLED TO KETTERFOUD. 241 

" Why was I not sent for before 1 " lie 
asked, in return. 

" Because we never tliousflit it was turnino- 
serious," sobbed Sarali. "She caught cold 
some days ago, and it flew to her throat, or 
her chest, I hardly know which. The doctor 
was called in ; and it's my belief he didn't 
know : the doctors now-a-days bain't worth 
half what they'd used to be, and they call 
things by fine names that nobody can under- 
stand. However it may have been, nobody 
saw any danger, neither him nor us. But 
at mid-day yesterday there was a change, 
and the doctor said he'd like further advice 
to be brought in. And it was had ; but 
they could not do her any good ; and she, 
poor dear mistress, was the first to say that 
she was dying. ' Send for Austin/ she said 
to me ; and one of the gentlemen he went 
to the wire telegraph place, and wrote the 
message." 

Austin made no rejoinder : he seemed to 
be swallowing down a lump in his throat. 
Sarah resumed. " Will you see her, sir ? 
She is just laid out." 



242 A life's secret. 

He nodded acquiescence, and tlie ser- 
vant led the way to the death chamber. 
It had been put straight, so to remain until 
all that was left of its many years' occupant 
should be removed. She lay on the bed in 
placid stillness ; her eyes closed, her pale 
face calm, a smile upon it ; the calm of a 
spirit at peace with heaven. Austin leaned 
over her, losing himself in solemn thoughts. 
Whither had the spirit flown ? to what 
brio-ht unknown world ? Had it found the 
company of sister spirits ? had it seen, face 
to face, its loving Saviour ? Oh ! what 
mattered now the few fleeting trials of this 
life that had passed over her I how worse 
than unimportant did they seem by the side 
of death ! A little, more or less, of care ; a 
lot, where shade or sunshine shall have pre- 
dominated ; a few friends gained or lost ; 
struggle, toil, hope — all must merge in the 
last rest. It was over ; earth, with its 
troubles and its petty cares, with its joys 
and sorrows, and its "goods stored up for 
many years ; " as completely over for Mary 
Thornimett, as though it had never been. 



CALLED TO KETTERFORD. 243 

In the higher realms whither her spirit had 
hastened 

" I told Mrs. Dubbs to knock up the 
undertaker, and desire him to come here at 
once and take the measure for the coffin." 

Sarah's interruption recalled Austin to 
the world. It is impossible, even in a death- 
chamber, to run away from the ordinary 
duties of daily life. 



K 2 



CHAPTER III. 

TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 

" You will Stay for tlie funeral, Mr. Clay?" 

" It is my intention to do so." 

" Good. Being interested in the will, it 
may be agreeable to you to hear it read." 

" Am I interested ? " inquired Austin, in 
some surprise. 

" Wliy, of course you are," replied Mr. Knap- 
ley, the legal gentleman with whom Austin 
was speaking, and who had the conduct of 
Mrs. Thornimett's affairs. "Did you never 
know that you were a considerable legatee ? " 

" I did not," said Austin. " Some years 
ao;o — it was at the death of Mr. Thornimett 
— Mrs. Thornimett hinted to me that I mia;ht 
be the better sometime for a trifle from her. 
But she has never alluded to it since : and I 
have not reckoned upon it." 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 245 

" Then I can tell you — tliougii it is re- 
vealing secrets beforehand — that you are the 
better to the tune of two thousand pounds." 

" Two thousand pounds ! " uttered Austin, 
in sheer amazement. " How came she to 
leave me so much as that ? " 

*' Do you quarrel with it, young sir ? " 

" No, indeed : I feel all possible gratitude. 
But I am surprised, nevertheless." 

" She was a clever, clear-sighted woman, 
was Mrs. Thornimett," observed the lawyer. 
" I'll tell you about it — how it is you come 
to have so much. When I was takino- dh-ec- 

o 

tions for Mr. Thornimett's will — more than 
ten years back now — a discussion arose be- 
tween him and his wife as to the propriety 
of leaving a sum of money to Austin Clay. 
A thousand pounds was the amount named. 
Mr. Thornimett was for leaving you in his 
wife's hands, to let her bequeath it to you at 
her death ; Mrs. Thornimett wished it should 
be left to you then, in the will I was about 
to make, that you might inherit it on the 
demise of Mr. Thornimett. He took his own 
course, and did ??o^ leave it, as you are aware." 



346 A life's secret. 

" I did not expect him to leave me any- 
thing," interrupted Austin. 

" My young friend, if you break in with 
these remarks, I shall not get to the end of 
my story. After her husband's burial, Mrs. 
Thornimett spoke to me. ' I particularly 
wished the thousand pounds left now to 
Austin Clay,' she said, ' and I shall appro- 
j)riate it to him at once.' 'Appropriate it 
in what manner ? ' I asked her. ' I should 
like to put it out to interest, that it may be 
accumulating for him,' she replied, 'so that 
at my death he may receive both j)rincipal 
and interest.' ' Then, if you live as long as 
it is to be hoped you will, madam, you may 
be bequeathing him two thousand pounds 
instead of one,' I observed to her. ' Mr. 
Knapley,' was her answer, ' if I choose to 
bequeath him three, it is my own money 
that I do it with ; and I am responsible to 
no one.' She had taken my remark to be 
one of remonstrance, you see, in which spirit 
it was not made : had Mrs. Thornimett 
chosen to leave you the whole of her money 
she had been welcome to do it for me. ' Can 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 21-7 

you help me to a safe investment for him ? ' 
she resumed ; and I promised to look about 
for it. The long and the short of it is, Mr. 
Clay, that I found both a safe and a pro- 
fitable investment, and the one thousand 
pounds has swollen itself into two — as you 
will hear when the will is read." 

" I am truly obliged for her kindness, and 
for the trouble you have taken," exclaimed 
Austin, with a glowing colour. " I never 
thought to get rich all at once." 

" You only be prudent and take care of 
it," said Mr. Knapley. " Be as wise in its 
use as I and Mrs. Thornimett have been. 
It is the best advice I can give you." 

" It is good advice, I know, and I thank 
you for it," warmly responded Austin. 

" Ay. I can tell you that less than two 
thousand pounds has laid the foundation of 
many a great fortune." 

To a young man, whose salary is only two 
hundred a year, the unexpected accession to 
two thousand pounds, hard cash, seems Hke 
a great fortune. Not that Austin Clay cared 
so very much for a " great fortune " in itself ; 



248 A life's secret. 

but he certainly did hope to achieve a com- 
petency, and to this end he made the best 
use of the talents bestowed upon him. He 
was not ambitious to die " worth a million ; " 
he had the rare good sense to laiow that 
excess of means cannot bring excess of happi- 
ness. The richest man on earth cannot eat 
two dinners a day, or wear two coats at a 
time, or sit two thorough-bred horses at once, 
or sleep on two beds. To some, riches are a 
source of continual trouble. Unless rightly 
used, they cannot draw a man to heaven, or 
help him on his road thither. 

Austin Clay's ambition lay in becoming a 
powerful man of business ; such as were the 
Messrs. Hunter. He would like to have 
men under him, of whom he should be the 
master ; not to control them with an iron 
hand, to grind them to the dust, to hold 
them at a haughty distance, as if they were 
of one species of humanity and he of another. 
ISfo ; he would hold intact their relative 
positions of master and servant — none more 
strictly than he ; but he would be their con- 
siderate friend, their firm advocate, regardful 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 249 

ever of their interests as he was of his own. 
He would like to have capital sufficient for 
all necessary business operations, that he 
might fulfil every obligation justly and 
honourably : so far, money would be wel- 
come to Austin. Very welcome did the two 
thousand pounds sound in his ears, for they 
might be the stepping-stone to this. Not to 
the " great fortune " talked of by Mr. Knap- 
ley, who avowed freely his respect for mil- 
lionaires : he did not care for that. They 
might also be a stepping-stone to something 
else — the very thought of which caused his 
face to glow and his veins to tingle — the 
winning of Florence Hunter. That he would 
win her, Austin fully believed now. 

On the day previous to the funeral, in 
walking through the streets of Ketterford, 
Austin found himself suddenly seized by the 
shoulder. A window had been thrown open, 
and a fair arm (to speak with the gallantry 
due to the sex in general, rather than to 
that one arm in particular) was pushed out 
and laid upon him. His captor was Miss 
Gwinn. 



250 A life's secret. 

" Come in," she briefly said. 

Austin would liave been better pleased to 
avoid her, but as she had thus summarily 
caught him, there was no help for it : to 
enter into a battle of contention with her, 
might be productive of neither honour nor 
profit. He entered her sitting-room, and she 
motioned him to a chair. 

" So you did not intend to call upon me 
during your stay in Ketterford, Austin Clay?" 

" The melancholy occasion on which I 
am here precludes much visiting," was his 
guarded reply. "And my sojourn will be a 
short one." 

" Don't be a hypocrite, young man, and 
use those unmeaning words. ' Melancholy 
occasion ! ' What did you care for Mrs. 
Thornimett, that her death should make you 
' melancholy ? ' " 

" Mrs. Thornimett was my dear and valued 
friend," he returned, with an emotion born 
of anger. " There are few, living, whom I 
would not rather have spared. I shall never 
cease to reg:ret the not having^ arrived in 
time to see her before she died." 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 251 

Miss Gwinn peered at liim from her keen 
eyes, as if seeking to kno^Y whether this was 
false or true. Possibly she decided in favour 
of the latter, for her face somewhat relaxed 
its sternness. " AVliat has Dr. Bcvary told 
you of me and of my affairs ? " she rejoined, 
passing abruptly to another subject. 

" Not anything," replied Austin. He did 
not lift his eyes, and a scarlet flush dyed his 
brow as he spoke ; nevertheless it was the 
strict truth. Miss Gwinn noted the signs of 
consciousness. 

" You can equivocate, I see." 

" Pardon me. I have not equivocated to 
you. Dr. Bevary has disclosed nothing ; he 
has never spoken to me of your affairs. 
Why should he. Miss Gwinn ? " 

" Your face told a different tale." 

" It did not tell an untruth, at any rate," 
he said, with some hauteur. 

" Do you never see Dr. Bevary ? " 

" I see him sometimes." 

" At the house of Mr. Hunter, I presume. 
How is she ? " 

Again the flush, whatever may have called 



252 A life's secret. 

it up, crimsoned Austin Clay's brow. " I 
do not know of whom you speak/' lie coldly 
said. 

" Of Mi^s. Hunter." 

" She is in ill health." 

" 111 to be in danger of her life ? I hear 
so." 

" It may be.' I cannot say." 

" Do you know, Austin Clay, that I have 
a long, long account to settle with you ? " 
she resumed after a pause : " years and years 
have elapsed since, and I have never called 
upon you for it. Why should I ? " she added, 
relapsing into a dreamy mood, and speaking 
to herself rather than to Austin ; " the mis- 
chief was done, and could not be recalled. 
I once addressed a brief note to you at the 
office of the Messrs. Hunter, requesting you 
to give a letter, inclosed in it, to my brother. 
Why did you not ? " 

Austin was silent. He retained only too 
vivid a remembrance of the fact. 

'' Why did you not give it him, I ask ? " 

" I could not give it him, Miss Gwinn. 
When your letter reached me, your brother 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 253 

had already been at the office of the Messrs 
Hunter, and was then on his road back to 
Ketterford. The inclosure was burnt un- 
opened." 

" Ay ! " she passionately uttered, throwing 
her arms upwards in mental pain, as Austin 
had seen her do in the days gone by, and 
holdino- commune with herself, regfardless of 
his presence, " such has been my fate 
through life. Thwarted, thwarted on all 
sides. For years and years I had lived but 
in the hope of finding him ; the hope of it 
kept life in me : and when the time came, 
and I did find him, and was entering upon 
my revenge, then this brother of mine, who 
has been the second bane of my existence, 
stepped in and reaped the benefit. It was 
my fault. Why, in my exultation, did I tell 
him the man w^as found ? Did I not know 
enough of his avarice, his needs, to have 
made sure that he would turn it to his own 
account ? Why," she continued, battling 
with her hands as at some invisible adver- 
sary, " was I born with this strong principle 
of justice within me ? Why, because he 



254 A LIFES SECEET. 

stepped in with his false claims and drew 
gold — a fortune — of the man, did I deem it 
a reason for dropping m?/ revenge ? — for 
letting it rest in abeyance ? In abeyance it 
is still ; and its unsatisfied claims are wearing 
out my heart and my life " 

"Miss Gwinn," interrupted Austin, at 
length, " I fancy you forget that I am pre- 
sent. Your family affairs have nothing to 
do with me, and I would prefer not to hear 
anything about them. I will wish you good 
day." 

" True. They have nothing to do with 
you. I know not why I spoke before you, 
save that your sight angers me." 

" Why so ? " Austin could not forbear 
asking. 

" Because you live on terms of friendship 
with that man. You are as his right hand 
in business ; you are a welcome guest at his 
house ; yon regard and respect the house's 
mistress. Boy ! but that she has not wilfully 
injured me ; but that she is the sister of Dr. 
Bevary, I should " 

" T cannot listen to any discussion invol- 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 255 

ving the name of Hunter," spoke Austin, in 
a repellant, resolute tone, the colour again 
flaming in his cheeks. "Allow me to bid 
you good day." 

" Stay," she resumed, in a softer tone, 
"it is not with you personally that I am 
angry " 

An interujDtion came in the person of 
Lawyer Gwinn. He entered the room with- 
out his coat, a pen behind each ear, and a 
dirty straw hat on his head. It was pro- 
bably his office attire in warm weather. 

" I thought I heard a strange voice. How 
do you do, Mr. Clay ? " he exclaimed with 
much suavity. 

Austin bowed. He said somethino; to the 
effect that he was on the point of depart- 
ing, and retreated to the door, bowing his 
final farewell to Miss Gwinn. Mr. Gwinn 
followed. 

" Ketterford will have to congratulate you, 
Mr. Clay," he said. " I understand you 
inherit a very handsome sum from Mrs. 
Thornimett." 

" Indeed !" frigidly replied Austin. "Mrs. 



256 A life's sechet. 

Thornimett's will is not yet read. But Ket- 
terford always knows everybody's business 
better tlian its own." 

" Look you, my dear Mr, Clay," said the 
lawyer, holding him by the button-hole. 
" Should you require a most advantageous 
investment for your money — one that will 
turn you in cent, per cent, and no risk — I 
can help you to one. Should your inherit- 
ance be of the value of a thousand pounds, 
and you would like to double it — as all men, 
of course, do like — ^just trust it to me ; I 
have the very thing now open." 

Austin shook himself free — ^rather too 
much in the manner that he mio;ht have 
shaken himself from a serpent. "Whether • 
my inheritance may be of the value of one 
thousand pounds or of ten thousand, Mr. 
Gwinn, I shall not require your services in 
the disposal of it. Good morning." 

The la\vyer looked after him as he strode 
away. " So, you carry it with a high hand 
to me, do you, my brave gentleman I with 
your vain person, and your fine clothes, and 
your imperious manner ! Take you care ! I 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 257 

liold your master under my thumb ; I may 
next hold you ! " 

"The vile hypocrite!" ejaculated Austin 
to himself, walking all the faster to leave 
the lawyer's house behind him. " She is bad 
enough, with her hankering after revenge, 
and her fits of passion ; but she is an angel 
of light compared to him. Heaven help Mr. 
Hunter ! It would have been sufficient to 
have had her to fight, but to have him ! Ay, 
heaven help him !" 

"How d'ye do, Mr. Clay?" 

Austin returned the nod of the j)assing 
acquaintance, and continued his way, his 
thoughts reverting to Miss Gwinn. 

" Poor thing ! there are times when I 
pity her ! Incomprehensible as the story is 
to me, I can feel compassion : for it was a 
heavy wrong done her, looking at it in the 
best light. She is not all bad ; but for the 
wrong, and for her evil temper, she might 
have been different. There is somethinp- 

o 

good in the hint I gathered now from her 
lips, if it be true — that she suffered her own 
revenge to drop into abeyance, because her 



258 A life's secret. 

brother had pursued Mr. Hunter to drain 
money from him : she would not go upon 
him in both ways. Yes, there was some- 
thing in it both noble and generous, if those 
terms can ever be applied to " 

" Austin Clay, I am sure ! How are you ? " 

Austin resigned his hand to the new 
comer, who claimed it. His thoughts could 
not be his own to-day. 

The funeral of Mrs. Thornimett took place. 
Her mortal remains were laid beside her 
husband, there to repose peacefully until the 
last trump shall sound. On the return of 
the mourners to the house, the will was read, 
and Austin found himself the undoubted 
possessor of two thousand pounds. Seve- 
ral little treasures, in the shape of books, 
drawings, and home knicknacks, were also 
left to him. He saw after the packing of 
these, and the day following the funeral he 
returned to London. 

It was evening when he arrived ; and he 
proceeded without delay to the house of Mr. 
Hunter — ostensibly to report himself, really 
to obtain a sight of Florence, for which his 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 'Z59 

tired lieart was yearning. The drawing- 
room was lighted up, by which he judged 
that they had friends with them. Mr. 
Hunter met him in the hall : never did a 
visitor's knock sound at his door but Mr. 
Hunter, in his nervous restlessness, strove to 
watch who it might he that entered. Seeing 
Austin, his face acquired a shade of bright- 
ness, and he came forward with an out- 
stretched hand. 

" But you have visitors," Austin said, when 
o;reetinors were over, and Mr, Hunter was 
drawincj him towards the stairs. He wore 
deep mourning, but was not in evening dress. 

"As if anybody will care for the cut of 
your coat 1 " cried Mr. Hunter. " There's 
Mrs. Hunter wrapped up in a woollen shawl." 

The room was gay with light and dress, 
with many voices and with music. Florence 
was seated at the piano playing, and singing 
in a glee mth others. Austin, silently greet- 
ing those whom he knew as he passed, made 
his way to Mrs. Hunter. She was wrapped 
in a warm shawl, as her husband had said ; 
but she appeared better than usual. 



260 A life's secret. 

" I am so glad to see you looking well," 
Austin whispered, his earnest tone betraying 
deep feeling. 

" And I am glad to see you here again," 
she replied, smihng, as she held his hand. 
" We have missed you, Austin. Yes, I feel 
better ! but it is only a temporary improve- 
ment. So you have lost poor Mrs. Thorni- 
mett. She died before you could reach her." 

" She did," replied Austin, with a grave 
face. " I wish we could get transported to 
places, in case of necessity, as quickly as the 
telegraph brings us news that we are wanted. 
A senseless and idle wish, you will say ; but 
it would have served me in this case. She 
asked after me twice in her last half 
hour." 

"Austin," breathed Mrs. Hunter, "was it 
a happy death-bed ? Was she ready to go ?" 

" Quite, quite," he answered, a look of en- 
thusiasm illumining his face. " She had been 
ready long." 

" Then we need not mourn for her ; rather 
praise God that she is taken. Oh, Austin, 
what a happy thing it must be for such to 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 261 

die ! But you are young and liopeful ; you 
cannot understand that, yet." 

So, Mrs. Hunter had learnt that great 
truth ! Some years before, she had not so 
spoken to the wife of John Baxendale, when 
she was waiting in daily expectation of being 
called on her journey. It had come to her 
ere her time of trial — as the dying woman 
had told her it would. 

The singing ceased, and in the movement 
which it occasioned in the room, Austin left 
Mrs. Hunter's side, and stood within the 
embrasure of the window, half hidden by 
the curtains. The air was pleasant on that 
warm summer night, and Florence, resigning 
her place at the instrument to some other 
lady, stole to the window to inhale its fresh- 
ness. There she saw Austin. She had not 
heard him enter the room — did not know, in 
fact, that he was back from Ketterford. 

" Oh ! " she uttered, in the sudden revul- 
sion of feeling that the sight l3rought to her, 
" is it you ? " 

He quietly took her hands in his, and 
looked down at her. Had it been to save her 



262 A life's secret, 

life, she could not have helped betraying 
emotion. 

" Are you glad to see me, Florence ? " he 
softly whis]3ered. 

She coloured even to tears. Glad ! The 
time might come when she should be able to 
tell him so ; but that time was not yet. 

" Mrs. Hunter is glad of my return," he 
continued, in the same low tone, sweeter to 
her ear than all music. " She says I have 
been missed. Is it so, Florence ? " 

" And what have you been doing ? " 
asked Florence, not Imowing in the least 
what she said in her confusion, as she left 
his question unanswered, and drew her hands 
away from him. 

"I have not been doing much, save the 
seeing a dear old friend laid in the earth. 
You know that Mrs. Thornimett is dead. 
She died before I got there." 

" Papa told us that. He heard from you 
two or three times, I think. How you must 
regret it ! But why did they not send for 
you in time ? " 

" It was only the last day that danger was 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 263 

appreliended/*' replied Austin. "She grew 
worse suddenly. You cannot think, Flo- 
rence, how strangely this gaiety" — he half 
turned to the room — " contrasts with the 
scenes I have left : the holy calm of her 
death-chamber, the laying of her in the 
grave." 

"An unwelcome contrast, I am sure it 
must be." 

"It jars on the mind. All events, essen- 
tially of the world, let them be ever so 
necessary or useful, must do so, when con- 
trasted with the solemn scenes of life's close. 
But how soon we forget those solemn scenes, 
and live in the world again !" 

" Austin," she gently whispered, " I do not 
like to talk of death. It reminds me of the 
dread that is ever oppressing me." 

" She looks so much better as to surprise 
me," was his answer, unconscious that it 
betrayed his undoubted cognisance of the 
" dread " she spoke of. 

" If it would but last ! " sighed Florence. 
" To prolong mamma's Kfe, I think I would 
sacrifice mine." 



264 A life's secret. 

" No, you would not, Florence — in mercy 
to her. If called upon to lose lier you would 
grow reconciled to it ; to do so, is in the 
order of nature. She could not spare you." 

Florence believed that she never could 
grow reconciled to it : she often wondered 
hoiv she should bear it when the time came. 
But there rose up before her now, as she 
spoke with Austin, one cheering promise, 
" As thy day is, so shall thy strength 
be." 

" What should you say, if I tell you I 
have come into a fortune ?" resumed Austin, 
in a lighter tone. 

"I should say — But, is it true 1" broke off 
Florence. 

" Not true, as you and Mr. Hunter Avould 
count fortunes," smiled Austin ; " but true, 
as poor I, born without silver spoons in my 
mouth, and expecting to work hard for all I 
shall ever possess, have looked upon them. 
Mrs. Thornimett has behaved to me most 
kindly, most generously; she has bequeathed 
to me two thousand pounds." 

" I am delighted to hear it," said Florence, 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 265 

her glad eyes sparkling. " Never call your- 
self poor again." 

'•' I cannot call myself rich, as Mr. and 
Mrs. Hunter compute riches. But, Florence, 
it may be a stepping-stone to become so." 

" A stepping-stone to become what ? " de- 
manded Dr. Bevary, breaking in upon the 
conference. 

" Rich," said Austin, turning to the doctor. 
" I am telling^ Florence that I have come 
into some money since I went away." 

Mr. Hunter and others were gathering 
around them, and the conversation became 
general. " What is that. Clay ? " asked Mr. 
Hunter. "You have come into a fortune, do 
you say ? " 

" I said, not into a fortune, sir, as those 
accustomed to fortune would estimate it. 
That great physician, standing there and 
listenino; to me, he would lauoli at the sum : 
I daresay he makes more in six months. 
But it may prove a stepping-stone to fortune 
and to — to other desirable things." 

"Do not speak so vaguely," cried the 
doctor, in his quaint fashion. " Define the 



266 A life's sechet. * 

' desirable things.' Come ! it's my turn 
now," 

" I am not sure that they have taken 
a sufficiently tangible shape as yet, to be 
defined," returned Austin, in the same 
tone. "You might laugh at them for day- 
dreams." 

Unwittingly his eye rested for a moment 
upon Florence. Did she deem the day- 
dreams might refer to her, that her eye-lids 
should droop, and her cheeks turn scarlet? 
Dr. Bevary noticed both the look and the 
signs ; Mr. Hunter saw neither. 

" Day-dreams would be enchanting as an 
eastern fairy-tale, only that they never get 
realized," interposed one of the fair guests, 
with a pretty simper, directed to Austin Clay 
and his attractions. 

" I will realize mine," he returned, rather 
too confidently, ' Heaven helping me ! " 

" A better stepping-stone, that help, to 
rely upon, than the money you have come 
into," said Dr. Bevary, ^^^itli one of his pecu- 
liar nods. 

"True, doctor," replied Austin. "But 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 267 

may not tlie money have come from the 
same helping source "? Heaven, you know, 
vouchsafes to work with humble instru- 
ments." 

The last few sentences had been inter- 
changed in a low tone. They now passed 
into the general circle, and the evening went 
on to its close. 

Austin and Dr. Bevary were the last to 
leave the house. They quitted it together, 
and the doctor passed liis arm Avithin 
Austin's as they walked on. 

" Well," said he, " and what have you 
been doing at Ketterford ?" 

" I have told you, doctor. Leaving my 
dear old friend and relative in her grave ; 
and realising the fact that she has be- 
queathed to me this money." 

" Ah, yes ; I heard that," retmned the 
doctor. " You've been seeing friends too, I 
suppose. Did you happen to meet the 
Gwinns V 

"Once. I was passing the house, and 
Miss Gwinn laid bands upon me from the 
window, and commanded me in. I got out 



268 A life's secret. •• 

again as soon as I could. Her brother made 
his appearance as I was leaving." 

" And what did he say to you?" asked 
the doctor, in a tone meant to be especially 
light and careless. 

" Nothing : except that he told me if I 
wanted a safe and profitable investment for 
the money I had inherited under Mrs. 
Thornimett's will, he could help me to one. 
I cut him very short, sir." 

"What did slie say?" resumed Dr. 
Bevary. " Did she begin upon her family 
affairs — as she is rather fond of doing ?" 

"Well," said Austin, his tone quite as 
careless as the doctor's, " I did not give 
her the opportunity. Once, when she 
seemed inclined to do so, I stopped her ; 
telling her that her private affairs were no 
concern of mine, neither should I listen to 
them." 

" Quite right, my young friend," em- 
phatically spoke the doctor. 

Not another word was said until they 
came to Daffodil's Delight. Here they 
wished each other good night. The doctor 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 269 

continued his way to his home, and Austin 
turned down towards Peter Quale's. 

But what could be the matter? Had 
Daffodil's Delight miscalculated the time, 
belie^dng it to be day, instead of night ? 
Women leaned out of their windows in 
night-caps ; children had crept from their 
beds and come forth to tumble into the 
gutter naked, as some of them literally 
were ; men crowded the doorway of the 
Bricklayers' Arms, and stood about with 
pipes and pint pots ; all were in a state of 
rampant excitement. Austin laid hold of 
the first person who appeared sober enough 
to listen to him. It happened to be a 
woman, Mrs. Dunn. 

"What is this?" he exclaimed. "Have 
you all come into a fortune?" the recent 
conversation at Mr. Hunter's probably help- 
ina: him to the remark. 

" Better nor that," shrieked J\Irs. Dunn. 
" Better nor that, a thousand times ! We 
have circumvented the masters, and got our 
ends, and now we shall just have all we 
want — ^roast goose and apple pudding for 



270 A life's secret. 

dinner, and plenty of beer to wash it down 
with." 

"But what is it that you have got?" 
pursued Austin, who ] was completely at 
sea. 

" Got ! why, we have got the strike," 
she replied, in jo}iful excitement. " Pollocks' 
men struck to-day. Where have you been, 
sir, not to have heered on it ?" 

At that moment a fresh crowd came 
jostling down Daffodil's Delight, and Austin 
was parted from the lady. Indeed, she 
rushed up to the mob to follow in their wake. 
Many other ladies followed in their wake — • 
half Daffodil's Delight, if one might judge 
by numbers. Shouting, singing, exulting, 
dancing ; it seemed as if they had, for the 
nonce, gone mad. Sam Shuck, in his long- 
tailed coat, ornamented with its holes and 
its slits, was leading the van, his voice 
hoarse, his face red, his legs and arms exe- 
cuting a war-dance of exultation. He it 
was who had got up the excitement and was 
keeping it up, shouting fiercely : " Hurrah 
for the work of this day ! Rule Britanniar ! 



TWO THOUSAND POUNDS. 271 

Britons never shall be slaves ! Tlie Strike 
has begun, friends ! H — o — o — o — o — o — r 
— rah ! Tlu-ee cheers for the Strike 1" 
Yes. The Strike had begun. 



.4 



CHAPTER IV. 

AGITATION. 

The men of an influential metropolitan 
building firm liaci struck, because their em- 
]3loyers declined to accede to certain demands, 
and Daffodil's Deliglit was, as you have seen, 
in a liigli state of excitement, particularly the 
female part of it. The men said they struck 
for a diminution in the hours of labour ; the 
masters told them they struck for an in- 
crease of wages. Seeing that the non-con- 
tents wanted the hours reduced and not the 
pay, it appears to me that you may call it, 
which you like. 

The Messrs. Hunters' men — with whom 
we have to do, for it Avas they who chiefly 
filled Daflbdil's Delight — though continuing 
their work as usual, were in a most unsettled 
state : as was the case in the trade gene- 



AGITATION. 273 

rally. The smouldering discontent might 
have died away peacefully enough, and pro- 
bably would, but that certain spirits made it 
their business to fan it into a flame. 

A few days went on. One evening Sam 
Shuck posted himself in an angle formed by 
the wall at the top of Daffodil's Delight. It 
was the hour for the men to quit work ; and, 
as they severally passed him on their road 
home, Sam's arm was thrust forward, and a 
folded bit of paper put into their hands. A 
mysterious sort of missive apparently : for, 
on opening the paper, it was found to con- 
tain only these words, in the long, sprawling 
hand of Sam himself : " Barn at the back 
of Jim Dunn's. Seven o'clock." 

Behind the house tenanted by the Dunns 
were premises occupied until recently by a 
cow-keeper. They comprised, amidst other 
accommodation, a large barn, or shed. Being 
at present empty, and to let, Sam thought 
he could do no better than take French 
leave to make use of it. 

The men hurried over tlieu" tea, or supper, 
(some took one on leaving work for the 



274 A LIFES SECRET. 

niglit, som6 the other, some a mixture of 
both, and some neither,) that they might 
attend to the invitation of Sam. Peter 
Quale was seated over a substantial dish of 
batter pudding, a bit of neck of mutton 
baked in the midst of it, when he Avas in- 
terrupted by the entrance of John Baxen- 
dale, who had stepped in from his own 
rooms next door. 

" Be you a-going to this meeting. Quale V 
Baxendale asked, as he took a seat. 

" I don't know nothing about it," returned 
Peter. " I saw Slippery Sam a-giving out 
papers, so I guessed there was something in 
the wind. He took care to pass me over : 
I expect Fm the greatest eyesore Sam has 
got just now. Have a bit?" added Peter, 
unceremoniously, pointing to the dish before 
him with his knife. 

"No, thank ye; I have just had tea at 
home. That's the paper — laying it open on 
the table-cloth. Sam Shuck is just now 
cock-a-hoop -with this strike." 

" He is no more cock-a-hoop than the rest 
of Daffodil's Delight is," struck in Mrs. 



AGITATION. 275 

Quale, who had finished her own meal, and 
was at leisure to talk. "The men and 
women is all a-going mad together, I think, 
and Slippery Sam's leading 'em on. Suppose 
you all do strike — which is what they are 
hankerino; after — what Qrood '11 it brinsf ?" 

" That's just it," replied Baxendale. " One 
can't see one's way clear. The agitation 
might do us some good, but it might do us 
a deal of harm ; so that one doesn't know 
what to be at. Quale, I'll go to the meeting, 
if you wiR" 

" If I go, it will be to give 'em a piece of 
my mind," retorted Peter. 

" Well, it's only right that different sides 
should be heard. Sam '11 have it all his own 
Avay else." 

"He'll manage to get that, by the ap- 
pearance things wears," said Mrs. Quale, 
wrathfully. " How you men can submit to 
be led by such a fellow as him, just because 
his tongue is capable of persuading you that 
black's white, is a marvel to me. Talk of 
women being soft ! let the men talk of their 
selves. Hold up a finger to 'em, and they'U 

T 2 



276 A LIFES SECRET. 

go after it : like the Swiss cows Peter read 
of the other day, a-flocking in a line after 
their leader, behind each other's tails." 

" I wish I knew what was right," said 
Baxendale, " or which course would tui-n 
out best for us." 

" I'd be off and listen to what's going on, 
at any rate," urged Mrs. Quale. 

The barn was filling. Sam Shuck, perched 
upon Mrs. Dunn's washing-tub turned up- 
side do^vn, which had been rolled in for the 
occasion, greeted each group as it arrived 
with a gracious nod. Sam appeared to be 
progressing in the benefits he had boasted 
to his wife he should derive, inasmuch as 
that the dilapidated clothes had been dis- 
carded for better ones : and he stood on the 
tub's end in all the glory of a black frock 
coat, a crimson neck-tie with lace-ends, and 
peg-top pantaloons : the only attire (as a 
ready-made outfitting shop had assured him) 
that a gentleman could wear. Sam's eye 
grew less complaisant when it rested on 
Peter Quale, who was coming in with John 
Baxendale. 



AGITATION. 277 

"This is a pleasure we didn't expect," 
said he. 

"May be not/' returned Peter Quale, 
drily. " The barn's open to all." 

" Of course it is," glibly said Sam, putting 
a good face upon the matter. " All fair and 
above board, is our mottor : which is more 
than them native enemies of ours, the 
masters, can say : they hold their meetings 
in secret, with closed doors." 

"Not in secret — do they?"- asked Eobert 
Darby. " I have not heard of that." 

" They meet in their own homes, and they 
shut out strangers," replied Sam. " I'd like 
to know what you call that, but meeting in 
secret V 

" I should not call it secret ; I should call 
it private," decided Darby, after a minute's 
pause, given to realise the question. "We 
might do the same. Our homes are om-s, 
and we can shut out whom we please." 

"Of course we 77i{ghtJ' contended Sam. 
" But we like better to be open ; and if a 
few of us assemble together to consult on 
the present aspect of affairs, we do it so that 



37S A life's secret. 

tlie masters, if they choose, might come and 
hear us. Things are not equalized in this 
world. Let us attempt secret meetings, and 
see how soon we should be looked up by the 
law, and accused of hatching treason and 
sedition, and all the rest of it. That sharp- 
eyed Times newspaper would be the first to 
set on us. There's one law for the masters, 
and another for the men," 

"Is that Slippery Sam'?" ejaculated a 
new comer, at this juncture. "Where did 
you get that fine new toggery. Shuck ? " 

The disrespectful interruption was spoken 
in simple surprise : no insidious meaning 
prompting it. Sam Shuck had appeared in 
rao-o-ed attire so lono-, that the chano-e could 
not fail to be remarkable. Sam loftily 
turned a deaf ear to the remark, and con- 
tinued his address. 

" I am sure that most of you can't fail to 
see that things have come to a crisis in our 
trade. The moment that brouo-ht it, was 
when that great building firm refused the 
reasonable demands of their men ; and the 
natural consequence of which was a strike. 



AGITATION. 279 

Friends, I have been just riled ever since. 
I have watched you go to work day after 
day like tame cats, the same as if nothing 
had happened ; and I have said to myself : 
'Have those men of Hunter's got souls 
within them, or have they got none ? " 

"I don't suppose we have parted from 
our souls," struck in a voice. 

"You have parted Avith the feelings of 
them, at any rate," rejoined Sam, beginning 
to dance in the excitement of contention, 
but rememberino' in time that his terra 

o 

Jirma Avas only a creaky tub. " What's that 
you ask me ? How have you parted with 
them ? Why, by not following up the 
strike. If you possessed a grain of the 
independence of free men, you'd have 
hoisted your colours before now : what 
would have been the result ? Why, the 
men of other firms in the trade would have 
followed suit, and aU struck in a body. It's 
the only way that will bring the masters to 
reason : the only way by which we can 
hope to obtain our rights." 

" You see there's no knowino- what would 



280 A ltfe's secret. 

be the end of a strike, Shuck," argued John 
Baxendale. 

" Tliere's no knowing what may be the 
inside of a pie until you cut him open," said 
Jim Dunn, whose politics were the same as 
Mr. Shuck's, red-hot for a strike. "But 
'tain't many as 'ud shrink from putting in 
the knife to see." 

The men laughed, and greeted Jim Dunn 
with applause. 

" I put it to you all," resumed Sam, who 
took his share of laughing with the rest, 
" whether there's sense or not in what I say. 
Are we likely to get our grievances re- 
dressed by the masters, unless we force it ? 
Never : not if we prayed our hearts out." 

" Never," and " never," murmured sundry 
voices. 

"What are our grievances?" demanded 
Peter Quale, putting the question in a mat- 
ter-of-fact tone, as if he really asked for 
information. 

"Listen!" ironically ejaculated Sam. "He 
asks what our grievances are ! I'll answer 
you, Quale. They are many and great. Are 



AGITATION. 2Si 

we not kept to work like beasts of burden, 
ten hours a clay 1 Does that leave us time 
for the recreation of our wearied bodies, for 
the improvement of our minds, for the edu- 
cation of our children, for the social home 
intercourse in the bosoms of our families ? 
By docking the day's labour to nine hours — 
or to eight, which we shall get, may be, after 

awhile," added Sam, with a wink "it 

would leave us the extra hour, and be a 
blessing." 

Sam carried the admiring room with him. 
That hard, disbelieving Peter Quale, inter- 
rupted the cheering. 

" A blessing, or the conterairy, as it might 
turn out," cried he. " It's easy to talk of 
education, and self-improvement ; but how 
many is there that would use the accorded 
hour that way ? " 

" Another grievance is our wages," re- 
sumed Sam, drowning the words, not caring 
to court discussion on what might be a 
weak point. "We call ourselves men, and 
Englishmen, and yet we lie down contented 
with five-and-sixpence a day. Do you know 



282 A life's secret. 

wliat our trade gets in Australia ? Oil, you 
do, some of you ? then I'll tell those that 
don't. From twelve to fifteen shillings per 
day : and even more than that. Twelve 
shillings ! and that's the minimum rate of 
pay," slowly repeated Sam, lifting up his 
arm and one peg-top to give emphasis to the 
w^ords. 

A murmur of envy at the coveted rate of 
pay in Australia shook the room to the 
centre. 

" But the price of provisions and other 
necessaries is enormous in that quarter," de- 
bated Abel Wliite, " So it may, come to the 
same in the end — -be about as broad as long. 
Old father and me was talking about it last 
nidit." 

o 

" If everybody went in for your old 
father's sentiments, we should soon be like 
him — in our dotage," loftily observed Sam. 

" But things are dear there," persisted 
Sam's antagonist. " I have heard what is 
sometimes given for shoes there ; but I'm 
afraid to say, it was so much. The wages 
in Australia can't be any guide for us." 



AGITATION. 283 

*'No, they can't," said Peter Quale. " Aus- 
tralia is one place, and this is another. 
-Where's the use of bringing up that ? " 

" Oh, of course not," sarcastically uttered 
Sam. " Anything that tends to show how 
we are put upon, and how we might be 
made more comfortable, it's of no use bring- 
ing up. The long and the short of it is this : 
we want to be regarded as men : to have 
our voices considered, and our plaints at- 
tended to ; to be put altogether upon a 
better footing. Little enough is it we ask 
at present : only for a modicum of ease in 
our day's hard labour, just the thin end of 
the wedge inserted to give it. That's all 
we are agitating for. It depends upon our- 
selves whether we get it or not. Let us 
display manly courage and join the strike, 
and it is ours to-morrow." 

The response did not come so quickly as 
Sam deemed it ought. He went on in a 
persuasive, ringing tone. 

" Consider the wives of your bosoms ; 
consider your little children ; consider your- 
selves. Were you born into the world to be 



284 A life's secret. 

slaves — blackymoors ; to be ground into the 
dust with toil ? Never." 

" Never," uproariously echoed three parts 
of the room. 

" The mottor of a true man is, or ought to 
be, ' Do as little as you can, and get as much 
for it ; ' " said Sam, dancing in his enthusi- 
asm, and thereby nearly losing his perch on 
the tub. " AVith an hour's work less a day, 
and the afternoon holiday on the Saturday, 
we shall " 

" What's the good of a afternoon Saturday 
hohday ? We don't want that, Sam 
Shuck." 

This ignominious interruption to the pro- 
ceedings came from a lady. Buzzing round 
the entrance door and thrusting; in their 
heads at a square hole, which might origi- 
nally have been intended for a window, were 
a dozen or two of the gentler sex. This 
irregularity had not been unobserved by the 
chairman, who faced them : the chairman's 
audience, densely packed, had their backs 
that way. It was not an orthodox adjunct 
to a trade meeting, that was certain, and the 



AGITATION. 285 

chairman would probably liave ordered the 
ladies away, had he deemed there was a 
chance of his getting obeyed ; but too many 
of them had the reputation of being the grey 
mares. So he winked at the irregularity, 
and had added one or two flom-ishes of 
oratory for their especial ears. The inter- 
rujDtion came from Mrs. Cheek, Timothy 
Cheek's wife. 

" What's the good of a afternoon Saturday 
holiday ? We don't want that, Sam Shuck. 
Just when we be up to our eyes in muck 
and cleaning, our places routed out till you 
can't see the colour of the boards, for brooms, 
and pails, and soap and water, and the chairs 
and things is all topsy-turvy, one upon ano- 
ther, so as the children have to be sent out 
to grub in the gutter, for there ain't no place 
for 'em indoors, do you think we want the 
men poking their noses in ? No ; and they'd 
better not try it on. Women have got tem- 
pers given to 'em as well as you." 

"And tongues too," rejoined Sam, unmind- 
ful of the dignity of his office. 

" It is to be hoped they have," retorted 



286 A life's secret. 

Mrs. Cheek, not inclined to be put down ; 
and lier sentiments appeared to be warmly- 
joined in by tlie ladies generally. "Don't 
you men go a agitating for the Saturday's 
half-holiday ! What 'ud you do with it, do 
you suppose ? Why, just sot it away at the 
publics." 

Some confusion ensued ; and the women 
were peremptorily ordered to mind their own 
business, and "make theirselves scarce," 
which not one of them attempted to obey. 
When the commotion had subsided, a very 
respectable man took uji the discourse — 
George Stevens. 

" The gist of the whole question is this," 
he said : " Will agitation do us good, or will 
it do us harm ? We look upon ourselves as 
representing one interest ; the masters con- 
sider they represent another. If it comes to 
open warfare between the two, the strongest 
would win." 

" In other words, whichever side's funds 
held out the longest," said Eobert Darby. 
" That is as I look upon it." 

" Just so," returned Stevens. " I cannot 



AGITATION. 287 

say, seeing no farther than we can see at 
present, that a strike would be advisable." 

" Stevens, do you want to better yourself, 
or not 1 " asked Sam Shuck. 

" I'd be glad enough to better myself, if I 
saw my way clear to do it," was the rej)ly. 
" But I don't." 

" Wc don't want no strikes," struck in a 
shockheaded hard-working man. " AVliat is 
it we want to strike for '? We have got 
plenty of work, and full wages. A strike 
won't fill our pockets. Them may wote for 
strikes that like 'em ; I'll keep to my 
work." 

Partial applause. 

"It is as I said," cried Sam. "There's 
poor, mean-spirited creatures among you, as 
won't risk the loss of a day's pay for the 
common good, or put out a hand to help the 
less fortunate. I'd rather be buried alive, 
five feet under the earth, than I'd show out 
so selfish." 

" AVhat is the interest of one of us is the 
interest of all," observed Stevens. "And a 
strike, if we went into it, would either benefit 



288 A life's secret. 

us all in the end, or make us all suffer. It 
is sheer nonsense to attempt to make out 
that one man's interest is different from 
another's ; our interests are the same. I'd 
vote for striking to-morrow, if I were sure 
we should come out of it with whole skins, 
and get what we struck for : but I must See 
that a bit clearer first." 

" How can we get it, unless we try for 
it ? " demanded Sam. " If the masters find 
we're all determined, they'll give in to us. 
I appeal to you all " — raising his hands over 
the room — " whether the masters can do 
without us ■? " 

" That has got to be seen," said Peter 
Quale significantly. " One thing is plain : 
we could not do without them." 

" Nor tliey without us — nor they without 
us," struck in voices from various parts of 
the barn. 

"Then why shilly-shally about the ques- 
tion of a strike ? " asked Sam of the barn, in 
a glib tone of reason, " If a universal strike 
were on, the masters would pretty soon 
make terms that would end it. Why, a six 



AGITATION. 289 

months' strike would drive half of them into 
the Gazette " 

" But it mig-ht drive us into the workhouse 
at the same time," interrupted John Baxen- 
dale. 

"Let me finish," went on Sam ; "it's not 
perlite to take up a man in the middle of a 
sentence. I say that a six months' strike 
would send many of the masters to the 
bankruptcy court. Well now, there has 
been a question debated among us " — Sam 
lowered his voice — "whether it would not be 
policy to let things go on quietly, as they 
are, till next spring " 

" A question among who "? " interposed 
Peter Quale, regardless of the i^proof just 
administered to John Baxendale. 

"Never you mind who," returned Sam, with 
a wink : " among those that are hard at work 
for your interest. With their contracts for 
the season signed, and their works in full 
progress, say about next May, then would 
be the time for a strike to tell upon the 
masters. However, it has l^een thought 
better not to delay it. The future's but an 



290 A LIFES SECRET. 

uncertainty : the present is ours, and so 
must the strike be. Have you mves '? " he 
pathetically continued; "have you children? 
have you spirits of your own '? Then you will 
all, with one accord, go in for the strike." 

" But what are our wivea and children to 
do while the strike is on 1 " asked Kobert 
Darby. " You say yourself it might last 
six months. Shuck. Who would support 
them 1 " 

" Who ! " rejoined Sam, with an indignant 
air, as if the question were a superfluous one. 
"Why the Trades' Unions, of course. That's 
all settled. The Unions are prepared to take 
care of all who are out on strike, standing 
up, like brave Britons, for their privileges, 
and keep 'em like fighting-cocks. Hooroar 
for that blessed boon, the Trades' Unions I " 

" Hooroar for the Trades' Unions ! " was 
shouted in chorus. " Keep us like fighting- 
cocks, will they ! Hooroar ! " 

" Much good you'U get from the Trades' 
Unions ! " burst forth a dissentient voice. 
" They are the greatest pests as ever was 
allowed in a free country." 



AGITATION. 291 

Tlie opposition caused no little commotion. 
Standing by the door, having pushed his way 
tlirough the surrounding women, . who had 
not made themselves "scarce," was a man 
in a flannel jacket, a cap in his hand, and 
his head white with mortar. He was looking 
excited as he spoke. 

"This is not regular," said Sam Shuck, 
displaying authority. " You have no busi- 
ness here : you don't belong to us." 

" Regular or irregular, I'll speak my 
\mind," was the answer. "I have been at 
work for Jones the builder, down yonder. 
I have done my work steady and proper, 
and I have had my pay. A man comes up 
to me yesterday and says, ' You must join 
the Trades' Union.' ' No,' says I, ' I shan't ; 
I don't want nothing of the Trades' Union, 
and the Union don't want nothing of me.' 
So they goes to my master. ' If you keep 
on employing this man, your other men wiU 
strike,' they says to him ; and he, being in a 
small way, got intimidated, and sent me off 
to-day. And here I am, throwed out of 
work, and I have got a sick wife and nine 

V 2 



292 A life's secret. 

young children to keep. Is tliat justice ? or 
is it tyranny ^ Talk about emancipating the 
slaves ! let us emancipate ourselves at home." 

" Why don't you join the Union 1 " cried 
Sam. " All do, who are good men and 
true." 

"All good men and true don't," dissented 
the man. " Many of the best workmen 
among us won't have anything to do with 
Unions ; and you know it, Sam Shuck." 

"Just clear out of this," said Sam. 

" When I've had my say," returned the 
man ; " not before. If I would join the 
Union, I can't. To join it, I must ]3ay five 
shillings, and I have not got them to pay. 
With such a family as mine, you may guess 
every shilling is forestalled afore it comes in. 
I kept myself to myself, doing my work in 
.quiet, and interfering with nobody. Why 
should they interfere with me ? " 

" If you have been in full work, five shil- 
lings is not much to pay to the Union," 
sneered Sam. 

"If I had my pockets fiUed with five- 
shilling pieces, I would not pay one to it," 



AGITATION. 293. 

fearlessly retorted tlie man. "Is it right 
that a free-born Englishman should give in 
to such a system of intimidation ? No : I 
never will. You talk of the masters being 
tjrrants : it's you who are the tyrants, one to 
another. What is one workman better than 
his fellow, that he should lay down laws and 
say. You shall do this, and you shall do that, 
or you shan't be allowed to work at all 1 
That rule you want to get passed — that a 
skilled, thorough workman shouldn't do a 
full day's work because some of his fellows 
can't — who's agitating for it ? Why, natu- 
rally those that can't or won't do the full 
work. Would an honest, capable man go in 
for it 1 Of course he'd not. I tell you 
what " — turning his eyes on the room — " the 
Trades' Unions have been called a protection 
to the working man ; but, if you don't take 
care, they'll grow into a ciirse. When Sam 
Shuck, and other good-for-uaughts like him, 
what never did a full week's work for their 
families yet, are paid in gold and silver to 
spread incendiarism among you, it's time you 
looked to yourselves.." 



294 A life's secret. 

He tiirned away as lie spoke ; and Sam, 
in a dance of furious passion, danced off liis 
tub. The interlude had not tended to in- 
crease the feelincf of the men in Sam's favour 

o 

— that is, in the cause he advocated. Not a 
man present but wanted to better himself 
could he do so with safety, but they were 
afraid to enter on ao^oTessive measures. 
Indiscriminate talking ensued ; diverse opin- 
ions were disputed, and the meeting was 
prolonged to a late hour. Finally the men 
dispersed as they came, nothing having been 
resolved upon. A few set their faces reso- 
lutely against the proposed strike ; a few 
were red-hot for it ; but the majority were 
undecided, and liable to be swayed either 
way. 

" It will come," nodded Sam Shuck, as he 
went home to a supper of pork chops and 
gin-and- water. 

But Sam was destined to be — as he would 
have expressed it — circumvented. It cannot 
be supposed that this unsatisfactory state of 
things was unnoticed by the masters : and 
they took their measures accordingly. Form- 



AGITATION. 295 

ing themselves into an association, tliey dis- 
cussed the measures best to be adopted, and 
determined upon a lock-out ; that is, to close 
their yards until the firm, whose workmen 
had struck, should resume work. They also 
resolved to employ only those men who 
would sign an agreement, or memorandum, 
affirming that they were not connected with 
any society which interfered with the ar- 
rangements of the master whose service 
they entered, or with the hours of labour, 
and acknowledging the rights both of masters 
and men to enter into any trade arrange- 
ments on which they might mutually agree. 
This paper of agreement was not relished by 
the men at all ; they styled it " the odious 
document." Neither was the lock-out re- 
lished : it was of course equivalent, in one 
sense, to a strike ; only that the initiative 
had come from the masters' side, and not 
from theirs. It commenced early in August. 
Some of the masters closed their works with- 
out a word of explanation to their men : in 
one sense it was not needed, for the men 
knew of the measure beforehand. Mr. Hunter 



296 A life's secret, 

chose to assemble them together, and state 
what he was about to do. Somewhat of his 
old energy appeared to have been restored 
to him for the moment, as he stood before 
them and spoke — Austin Clay by his 
side. 

" You have brought it upon yourselves," 
he said, in answer to a remark from one who 
boldly, but respectfully, asked whether it 
was fair to resort to a lock-out, and so 
punish all alike, contents and non-contents. 
" I will meet the question upon your own 
grounds. When the Messrs. Pollocks' men 
struck because their demands, to work nine 
hours a day, were not acceded to, was it 
not in contemplation that you should join 
them — that the strike should be universal ? 
Come, answer me candidly." 

The men, true and honest, did not deny it. 

" And possibly by this time you would 
have struck," said Mr. Hunter. " How much 
more ' fair ' would that have been towards 
us, than this locking-out is towards you ? 
Do you suppose that you alone are to meet 
and pass your laws, saying you will coerce 



AGITATION. 297 

the masters, and that the masters will not 
pass laws in return ? Nonsense, my men I " 

A pause. 

" When have the masters attempted to 
interfere with your privileges, either by say- 
ing that your day's toil shall consist of longer 
hours, or by diminishing your wages, and 
threatening to turn you off if you do not 
fall in with the alteration ? Never. Masters 
have rights as well as men : but some of 
you, of late, have appeared to ignore the 
fact. Let me ask you another question : 
Were you well treated under me, or were 
you not ? Have I shown myself solicitous 
for your interests, for your welfare ? Have 
I ever oppressed you, ever put upon you 1 " 

No, Mr. Hunter had never sought to op- 
press them : they acknowledged it freely. 
He had ever been a good master. 

" My men, let me give you my opinion. 
While condemning your conduct, your sem- 
blance of discontent — it has been semblance, 
rather than reality — I have been sorry for 
you, for it is not with you that the chief 
blame lies. You have suffered evil per- 



298 A life's secret. 

suaders to get access to your ears, and liave 
been led away by their pernicious counsels. 
The root of the evil lies there. I wish 
you could bring your own good sense to 
bear upon these points, and to see with 
your own eyes. If so, there will be nothing 
to prevent our resuming together amicable 
relations ; and for my own part, I care not 
how soon the time shall come. The works 
are for the present closed." 



END OF VOL. I. 



BRArjBDr.Y, EVAN8, AND CO., PRINTERS, WHITEFBIASS.